The Addiction Solution: Re-Thinking How We Can Help

(5-8-18) Helping someone with an addiction is extremely difficult. As parents we are told the mantra: “You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it and you can’t cure it.”

But those words ring hollow if you love someone who has an addiction and you are trying to help him or her become well. Add in a mental illness and the difficulties increase.

I’d love to hear on my Facebook page what helped you and your family. Please share any information that led to someone you love beating pills and/or alcohol.

I have read several helpful books and now my friend, Dr. Lloyd I. Sederer, the chief medical officer for the New York State Office of Mental Health, is publishing a book today entitled: The Addiction Solution: Treating Our Dependence on Opioids and Other Drugs.

I greatly admire Dr. Sederer, respect his vast experience, and value his wisdom so I am happy to post an excerpt.

 Kirkus Review praised his book as a “comprehensive work” and explained that Dr. Sederer identifies ten key factors that influence how individuals interact with psychoactive substances and then explains approaches for treating those who become addicted.

Here’s an excerpt, printed with his permission, in which he describes the mess we currently are in.


Treating Our Dependence on Opioids and Other Drugs

Substance use, abuse, and dependence are like a plague in this country and throughout the world. We are losing not just our children to this disease, but brothers, sisters, parents, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. The body count from overdose deaths and rewarding lives lost to addiction continues to rise. We have yet to implement solutions that will deliver what is needed to overcome the addictive forces that are eroding our societies.

A major reason why we are failing is a dogged attachment to ideas and efforts that have not worked in beating the plague of addiction. Addiction is still here, unabated. The money we are paying—in this country and throughout the globe—is not just vast; it has sadly often been wasted on unsuccessful campaigns of drug control and on education efforts that rely on stressing the negative consequences of drug use.

       I believe that the biggest problem with so many of the psychoactive drugs, those that work on our brains and minds, is that they are so effective.

In immediate and powerful ways they change how we feel, how we think, and how we relate and behave. That’s why we use them, why “just saying no” to them is naïve and ineffective, and why the dilemma of drug taking, legal and illicit, has become one of the most dominant societal problems we face in the twenty-first century.

The appreciation that drugs serve a human purpose, and that we are all human, is fundamental to ending the drug epidemic we are in. This perspective, as commonsensical as it may appear, has not informed drug policy and practice in this country. When it gains traction, so shall we—and that will save many lives and countless dollars.

Take psycho-stimulants, for example. Countless well-designed studies on the effects of drugs such as Ritalin, Adderall, and Dexedrine on youth with hyperactive and attention problems have shown their robust effects. Kids quiet down, can focus, and become less disruptive in classrooms within an hour of taking a psycho-stimulant. The use of Ritalin and Adderall is pervasive in colleges and universities; ask any student, who will tell you the truth. These drugs, in the short term, increase focus and attention and awaken sleepy brains. Youth, parents, teachers, and doctors may debate the pros and cons of their use, but are, nevertheless, left to confront the reality of a given child’s or young adult’s need for something that can enhance the capacity to learn and behave.

Opioids, as another example, have both legal and illegal applications as pain medications and street drugs. Among the most popular are OxyContin, Percodan, Vicodin, morphine, heroin, and now fentanyl as well. Opium has been the old standard, used in Asia for a long time but less common in the United States.

We have a CDC-recognized epidemic of addiction to prescription opioids, with its consequent deadly overdoses, which has recently been joined by the recurrence of heroin use and mixed street concoctions that are even more lethal. The casualties are no longer solely the inner-city poor and people of color, but extend to white people, the middle class, and Middle America.

We need to comprehend and appreciate how these substances serve the user: that the warm opioid rush rivals any other state of euphoria and dissolves psychic and physical pain. That stimulants boost energy, focus, and mood among youth and adults. That marijuana acts as an anxiolytic, “lysing” nervousness. That alcohol is the universal solvent to unglue social inhibitions.

In my career as a psychiatrist I have cared for and overseen the treatment of tens of thousands of patients suffering from the ravages of addiction. All used drugs for perfectly intelligible reasons— because the substance served their particular needs.

Therein lie the solutions….

Dr. Sederer’s book is available here.


An exploration of drug addiction and the various treatment options… In this comprehensive work, Sederer (Improving Mental Health: Four Secrets in Plain Sight, 2016, etc.), the chief medical officer for the New York State Office of Mental Health, aims to inform individuals, families, and communities of the complex issues surrounding drug abuse and addiction, whether the addiction involves prescription pain killers or recreational substances such as marijuana or cocaine. He also focuses on the far-ranging challenges of treatment options, how they can be influenced by physiological issues and often undermined by governmental policies. Sederer begins by identifying 10 key factors for determining how an individual will interact with a psychoactive substance, with regard to personal, contextual, and neurological issues. They include aspects such as age, environmental setting, and the purity, potency, and composition of the particular drugs. In the second part, the author outlines the various approaches to treatments, beginning with healthy alternatives for combating personal struggles that may trigger drug use in the first place—e.g., exercise and sports, mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation. He later provides an in-depth overview of the more substantial principles and forms of treatments, ranging from 12-step programs to medication-assisted treatments. Ultimately, Sederer doesn’t recommend just one single course of action. Recovery is possible when individuals are willing and able to “stay the course.” While the author doesn’t offer much in the way of groundbreaking remedies, he provides a lucid foundation for responding to this complex challenge. As an answer to how we can best respond to our country’s opioid epidemic, he concludes, “the answers are public health in nature: prevention, early intervention, effective and comprehensive treatment programs, and a cultural shift toward understanding not just the neuroscience of addiction but also the psychological and social dimensions central to the commencement and continuation of addictive behaviors.”

A well-informed and accessible guide to treating addiction.



About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.