Overcoming Addiction: Find an effective path toward recovery - SHR

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Addiction can be devastating. One of the most common expressions of addiction, alcohol dependence, causes an estimated 100,000 deaths annually — the equivalent of an airliner carrying 274 passengers crashing every single day. The good news is that there are a number of effective treatments for addiction, including self-help strategies, psychotherapy, medications, and rehabilitation programs, all of which are detailed in this report. You’ll also find targeted advice on specific types of addiction, as well as information about coping with a loved one’s addiction. More good news: several scientific advances have shaped our understanding of this common and complex problem. For example, brain-imaging technologies have revealed that our brains respond similarly to different pleasurable experiences, whether derived from psychoactive substances, such as alcohol and other drugs, or behaviors. Genetic research has uncovered that some people are predisposed to addiction, but not to a specific type of addiction. Finally, medications developed to treat one addiction have, in some cases, proven helpful for treating a different type of addiction. You can protect (and heal) yourself from addiction by having diverse interests that provide meaning to your life. Understand that life’s problems usually are transient, and perhaps most importantly, acknowledge that life is not always supposed to be pleasurable. Therefore, you don’t have to use a psychoactive substance to get away from the negative things that happen in life. Instead, you can use the strategies presented in this report to discover new ways to cope with life’s difficulties. This Special Health Report was prepared by the editors of Harvard Health Publishing in consultation with Faculty Editor Howard J. Shaffer, Ph.D, C.A.S., Director of the Division on Addiction at the Cambridge Health Alliance and Morriss E. Chafetz Associate Professor of Psychiatry in the Field of Behavioral Sciences at Harvard Medical School. 57 pages. (2021)