The buzz on capital hill and, throughout the rest of the country, this week has been the inability of the republican majority to push through a healthcare reform bill that faced harsh criticism from both sides of the aisle. In the end, President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan found themselves having to appeal to fundamentally different philosophies within their own party. At a press conference late Friday, an obviously tired, yet optimistic Ryan took to the podium and admitted that the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare” would be the law of the land for the foreseeable future. What then, does this mean for the continuing evolution of addiction treatment and its increased accessibility under the ACA?
A team of researchers at Indiana’s Purdue University is working toward curbing opioid addiction at one of its primary sources: the doctor’s office. In response to the high number of patients that develop addiction to prescription painkillers, and later often heroin, as a result of a legitimate prescription administered by their doctors, the team has been researching ways to address the clinical aspect of this pervasive and devastating public health issue that continues to kill tens of thousands of Americans per year. They recently made a significant breakthrough in the form of a new drug compound that just might be able to break the cycle of treatment and addiction.
When Ben Affleck recently disclosed that he had completed treatment for alcohol abuse, it was not anything that the public hadn’t heard before. The actor, writer and director has experienced a long and documented battle with alcohol, going back to a previous stint in treatment in 2001. Perhaps the most impactful part of his announcement is the reinforcement that recovery truly is a lifelong endeavor, and that even after years of continued sobriety, addicts may need a little more assistance to help them stay on track, or get back there after a relapse; many of us have experienced this cycle in our own lives.
After weeks of promising a plan that would successfully replace the Affordable Care Act and bring quality health insurance options to every American, the republican-led legislature finally unveiled their vision for the future of healthcare in the form of the American Healthcare Act of 2017. Since its roll out, there has been rampant bipartisan criticism of the legislation; some from those who say it doesn’t go far enough to reverse the course of Obamacare and some from those who say it jeopardizes insurance accessibility for tens of millions of people. For those who have benefitted from the increased access to addiction and mental health treatment under the ACA, it’s hard to say that this law offers a happy ending.
America’s closest Middle Eastern ally took a bold and decisive step during its weekly cabinet meeting this past Sunday: the decriminalization of marijuana. In a bipartisan measure that that it hopes will have a positive impact on both public health and the legal system, Israel voted definitively to take marijuana-related offenses out of its criminal court…for the most part. The new policy calls for a $250 fine for fist-time offenders caught using marijuana in public. Second-time offenders will receive a $500 penalty and a third offense may require offenders to seek rehab. It’s not until the fourth offense that violators may be subject to prosecution and a possible jail term. Money recouped from violations will go toward funding drug rehab and education in the country.
A recent study published by researchers at Canada’s McGill University set out to examine the commonality between music, sex, food and recreational drug use in eliciting feelings of pleasure in the brain: they’ve done it. The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports on February 8th and could have transformative implications for how we examine the role of music in mental health. The study’s findings essentially assert that the brain releases natural opioids when listening to music, an identical chemical reaction to when the brain experiences pleasure from sex, food and drug consumption. Researchers set out to better understand the neurochemical basis of musical experience and release their findings.
In a move that could have a significant positive impact right here in the United States, China has announced plans to ban the sale and manufacture of four popular and powerful types of the synthetic opioid fentanyl. Earlier this month, the country that has been the primary foreign source for devastating and addictive fentanyl-based drugs disclosed plans to outlaw carfentanil, furanyl fentanyl, acrylfentanyl and valeryl fentanyl. US officials are optimistic that the effects of this ban will resonate in communities all across America, where fentanyl claims an average of 700 individuals each year and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down.
One of the fundamental tenets of recovery is that it ultimately has to be the addict’s decision. Conventional wisdom indicates that an addict can’t get clean for anyone else but themselves and they have to truly want to enter treatment. This assertion is of little comfort, however, to the millions of families that have been ripped apart by drug and alcohol abuse. At some point, every loved one of an addict has wished they could force them to get help, but with relapse rates among recovering addicts being as high as they are, is that really the answer? Certain members of the Pennsylvania State Legislature are thinking it might be.
It’s Presidents Day and regardless of how one may view the current occupant of the Oval Office, the Presidency is still among the most powerful, prestigious and revered institutions in the world. The bottom line is that when the President opens their mouth, the entire country and a majority of the world listens, including those affected by drug and alcohol addiction and their families. While the approach to addiction treatment in the US is experiencing constant innovation and refinement amid continuous research and clinical exploration, it has undergone an especially noticeable evolution over the past 30 years, both philosophically and practically. As America observes another Presidents’ Day, and 46 years after President Nixon declared war on drugs, it’s also worth observing what role our past few Chief Executives have had in this evolution.