Dr Frank James on Improving Treatment for Addiction

Improving treatment for addiction means first recognizing that addiction is a chronic disease and also understanding that relapse is part of the disease process, explained Frank James, MD, JD, of American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Transcript (slightly modified)
How can health systems and practices improve treatment for patients with addiction?
We have to first recognize that it is a chronic disease. It’s not a moral disease, it’s not a disease that measures someone’s efforts or their desire to get better—it really is a medical disease. We do have evidence-based care and evidence-based treatments that work. So, we have to make sure that all of our models are based on a chronic disease model.

People often say that if you relapse then the treatment didn’t work; we realize that relapse is a part of the disease process. But the important thing is: how do we treat people who do relapse that we don’t pass judgement on them, we make sure that they’re welcome to come back to treatment, that they’re still engaged? And how do we change the treatment afterwards to make sure that what didn’t work before that we can improve on that?

So really, we have to look at this as a chronic disease with evidence-based treatments for a specific population that has specific needs, and then we need to engage them.
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