Tying up every loose end – Keeping my head above water

You may have noticed (or maybe not) that I’ve been slacking a little on the writing end of All About Addiction (A3). I love my readers and so I wanted to make sure that you were all in on everything that’s going on so that you don’t feel left out (my wife taught me that!). Now that All About Addiction has expanded beyond the blog that started it all out to include the new Rehab-Finder and everything else the website offers now (like the Resource Page), it takes a lot more work to keep everything moving along, and unfortunately, I can’t afford any help yet so it’s just me and my undergrad crew! Still, when I started this website a few years ago to help those who wanted the most recent scientific information about addiction have easy access to it, I never could have imagined it going this far.

Also, since I’m now officially about one week away from my dissertation defense date (woohoo!!!) the work in that arena is getting more and more focused, which leaves less and less time to focus on other thing. Still, it’s hard for me to express how excited I am to bring the last 7 years of exploration to a close and get started on Phase 2 (or is Phase 15…). I’m guessing that I’ll likely post excerpts from the thesis itself here on A3, as well as probably on WePapers, which is a site my dad helped start that allows people in education to share knowledge (pretty cool!). Speaking of my dad, I really wish he’d made it another 6 months to meet my boy Kai and get to see me finish this Ph.D. thing – I know how much he would have appreciated both. Losing him has definitely given me a better idea of the downside to not believing in reincarnation, life-after-death, and all that other wonderfully optimistic stuff. But I digress.

So between the website expansion, the birth of my son, my dissertation, and that thing we all call sleep I’ve been pretty much maxed out, which explains the serious drop in new content. I promise that once I am officially Dr. Jaffe I’ll have more time to focus on bringing you the kind of groundbreaking addiction-science coverage you’ve come to rely on.

Oh, and if you’re really hungry for more, make sure to check out the piece about A3 (and me) in the UCLA newsroom as well as the upcoming piece in the UCLA paper (the Daily Bruin) about addiction that will feature me in it too. Between those two pieces and the LA Times and Boston Globe pieces I’ve been interviewed for in the past few months, it seems at least someone is paying attention to all the work that has gone into All About Addiction for the past 3 years or so.

For that, my son, my wife, and everything else that’s good – I’m grateful.

Sincerely,

Adi

UCLA coverage of All About Addiction – Adi in the news

We don’t normally toot our own horn, but this one is big!

If you haven’t yet had a chance to check it out, make sure you read the recent UCLA Newsroom story about Adi Jaffe, A3’s originator, and about All About Addiction.

The story chronicles much of the stuff we’ve already talked about on A3, including Adi’s drug addiction history, his studies about addiction at UCLA, and his dissertation research, which we’re sure he’ll talk about more on here soon.

Also mentioned is the new A3 Rehab-Finder, which we’re certain will soon become one of the most utilized tools to make finding addiction treatment in the U.S. (and around the world?) easier and more efficient.

As a UCLA fan and participant for over 12 years, Adi couldn’t be more excited to have one of the first big stories written about his work published directly on the school’s website. The story’s also been picked up by the general University of California Newsroom and by PhysOrg and a number of other great online resources.

Hard work pays off!!!

A million ways to treat an addict

When I was still attending my addiction counseling classes at UCLA, we often discussed the many different tools now available when treating drug abuse (CBT, 12 step, medications, rapid detox, etc.). Still, most of the class members focused on how many of these don’t work with everyone and how some have actually resulted in problems for certain patients. I think this is a mistake.

Like a physician treating any other chronic disease, I think that practitioners in the field of addiction need to come to terms with reality: Chronic conditions (and I don’t mean smoking good weed) are difficult to treat. Still, cancer treatment works by trying the best possible method, then the next, and then the next, until all options have been exhausted. In the addiction world, most therapists and counselors still stick to their guns with the method they believe work best.

Unlike with roses, an addict is not an addict, is not an addict… Different methods will work for different people. It isn’t hard to believe this when you consider the fact that while many addicts recover within outpatient substance abuse treatment settings, others need an intensive residential program, and some recover spontaneously with no real intervention.

It’s time to start focusing on results in this field and leave the moral dogma behind. If there’s a tool that can help, we need to put it into action. It’s that simple.

Like advancements in medical care and science? Then support animal research

There was a Pro-Test for Science rally on the UCLA Campus today.  The goal of the rally was to spread awareness about the utility of animal-research and to help combat extremists and prove to the community and world that the ethical use of animals for biomedical research is absolutely vital to the progress and success of advancements in science.

Many of the treatments that we discuss on this site are available because of extensive research with animals. In fact, many scientific discoveries have been possible largely because animal research is an available tool for researchers. Immunizations, medical treatments for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes treatments have all been advanced greatly through the use of biomedical research with animals. Of course, great care is always taken to ensure humane treatment of the animals used.  Animals prove a vital part of advancements in medicine, genetics and other research.

Biomedical scientists endure many trials in order to become experts in the type of research techniques we’re talking about here, including extensive schooling, years of training and of course many thousands of hours spent in a lab, all for the benefit of humanity.  They should not have to additionally endure the harassment of extremists and fear for their safety and the safety of their loved ones who often are caught in the middle.

Debate is healthy; discussion is good. But the harassment and terrorizing of researchers must stop if we’re to consider ourselves an open, educated, society. All biomedical researchers want is to better society by finding cures for the many things that plague our world today, so what everyone should really be doing is thanking them.

Co-authored by Jamie Felzer

Another short word on animal research – Civility, debate, and education

As many of you know, I’m in support of animal research as long as it’s conducted ethically and with concern for the animals’ well-being. That being said, it would be an understatement to announce that there are others who disagree. All well and good as long as people are civilized.

I’ve already written about this topic a bit on here, but I want to point everyone to a great site that focuses specifically on this aspect of research. I think that information and education are important in debate and I hope that people will use this resource.

There will actually be a debate on the topic on the UCLA campus though, as usual, animal extremists have once again betrayed us all by issuing threats and therefore making the event closed to the UCLA community. In a move reminiscent of Orwellian politics, these groups may have realized that open debate will uncover just how dogmatic, extreme, and unnecessary they are and further marginalize them (if that’s possible).

If you are a UCLA student, staff, or faculty member, I urge you to attend.

Abuse of prescription drugs is on the rise

A recent article in the UCLA health system magazine Vital Signs talks about the increased prevalence of prescription drug abuse.

Apparently, at 20%, prescription drugs are now the most commonly abused group of substances after alcohol and marijuana. With the same prevalence among teens, this is certainly a concern.

The article notes a few indicators of abuse, though for those knowledgeable in addiction matters, there are no surprises on this list:

  • Increasing dose or frequency without consulting doctors (sign of tolerance).
  • Going to different doctors for same medication (spending a lot of time getting or using the drug).
  • Getting medications from sources other than physicians (such as illegal sources).
  • Stealing medications from friends and family (interrupting social functioning).
  • Continuing to use the medication despite adverse consequences.

The article goes on to describe possible treatments, but the most interesting suggestion was the inclusion of drug-testing in physicians’ offices and the use of national databases to keep track of the medication that people have and are being prescribed.

Good ideas.

Addiction services conference – Addiction research to addiction treatment success

I’m currently attending UCSF‘s Addiction Health Services Research Conference. The 3 day event aims to improve addiction treatment by bringing together researchers, treatment providers, and state and federal policy players. I’m going to write from here after every day filling you all in on the latest and greatest.

Today’s addiction research summary

Today’s main topics focused once again on the shift in addiction treatment conceptualization from a short term, black box sort of model to a more chronic one. I’ve already talked about comparing addiction to other chronic diseases, like diabetes or hypertension, in another post on here (see here). Nevertheless, today’s talks provided some additional insight.

Today’s speakers, members of UCLA‘s Integrated Substance Abuse Program (In the interest of full disclosure, I myself work at ISAP), talked about the notion that in order to provide the best treatment, we need to start looking at some more measures of treatment success. As it stand right now, those who assess treatment success mostly look at abstinence following discharge from treatment. While reductions in drug use are certainly important, they don’t tell the whole story.

Other measures of addiction treatment success

I won’t go into these in too much details (the presentation lasted 3 hours), but here are some of the suggested measures the speakers mentioned:

  1. Good treatment initiation rates.
  2. Client retention rates at or above 90 days.
  3. Percent (%) of clients successfully transferred to next level of care – This is especially important for the chronic care model of addiction.
  4. Treatment completion – A little dicey because providers set their own standards of completion.

Those were the major ones discussed today. Given my experience in research, I thought of some additional ones, including:

  1. Improvement in employment status for clients.
  2. Reductions in client drug use – I think testing should be a standard, and ongoing, aspect of all drug treatment programs. Drug users need to stay clean in early treatment and the only way to tell for sure is by testing them.
  3. Use of research-supported methods to increase treatment retention – There are quite a few tools (like CM, use of medications like suboxone, and more) that are often underused but have shown great promise in helping keep clients in treatment for longer.

That’s it for today. More tomorrow!!!