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Technology Is The Future of Addiction Therapy
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Technology Is The Future of Addiction Therapy

Vanity Fair skirts the real issues of Bradley Cooper's addiction.
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Nurse Mia Ross critiques Vanity Fair’s article about Bradley Cooper’s addiction issues and explains why technology is the future of addiction therapy.


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Vanity Fair’s January cover features an exclusive story titled “Bradley Cooper Speaks About his Struggle with Addiction.”  Addiction is an important public health concern and, as a registered nurse and health writer, I am always interested to see how the media conveys this information.  Unfortunately, Vanity Fair glosses over the real struggle and complexity of addiction.  In fact, the word addiction is mentioned only once within the body of the article.  It seems as though Vanity Fair is perpetuating the stigma that addiction is too dark and daunting to really discuss.  I’m willing to talk about it further.

Addiction and substance abuse is the largest and most expensive preventable health problem today.   It is well-documented that addiction is a complex disease involving genetics, behavior, and the environment.  In 2013, the US Department of Health and Human Services did a national survey on Drug Use and Health which showed that the number of people 12 and older affected by addiction is not declining.  It’s time to take what we’ve learned and create a new solution.

Here are 3 things we know:

  1. Addiction research has shown that having strong coping mechanisms is important to preventing substance-abuse relapse.
  2. The right environment is imperative to maintain sobriety.
  3. Addiction is a complicated disease that never really ends.  It requires continuous, long-term support.

It is obvious that the current treatment regime, which focuses mostly on acute rehab after relapse, is failing.  Meeting with a counselor once a week is not going to curb deep-rooted habits.  Neither is simply taking prescription drugs to replace illicit ones (as in methadone replacement of heroin).   Luckily, there are a few technologically savvy researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) trying to change the way we look at this disease.  After developing software that accumulates, stores, and analyzes an individual’s addiction behaviors, researchers found that drug users have fairly predictive habits and cravings.  This software may help prevent relapse episodes by delivering personalized information during recovery in real time. Using GPS technology, recovering addicts are notified of “danger” zones based on their current mood, cravings, or surroundings.  The software delivers reminders for upcoming appointments and sends random periodic surveys (or “check-ins”).  There is even a panic button for immediate assistance when cravings or urges become overwhelming.  Similar technologies have been successful with helping people to quit smoking.

The way we treat addiction is evolving.  Reading January’s Vanity Fair article is, unfortunately, not going to help anyone understand addiction or its treatment.  In fact, reading about celebrities with addictions may do more harm than good.  More research is needed to improve current treatments, but you can bet technology will be heavily involved.  In the meantime, if you or someone you know is recovering from addiction, you can call this helpline at 1-800-662-4357 or click here to learn more.

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