Living in a heroin epidemic can lead to all kinds of talk about addiction and the answers to it – with a lot of it false.

But on Monday, a national addiction expert joined some local and state experts at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Medicine and met with The Enquirer to bust some common addiction myths.

Here are the myths, along with the truth:

Myth 1. Addiction is not a disease.

Truth: “Addiction is a disease,” said Betty Tai, director of the Center for Clinical Trials Network for the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “It is a brain disease, and you’ve got to treat it with a disease model.”

Like diseases of hypertension or diabetes, Tai said, there are best practices with which to treat addiction: “You give the patient what the patient is short on in his body or brain,” she said, “so that the patient can keep a normal life … keep a quality of life.”

She said you can manage the disease with treatment, just as you can manage other diseases.

Myth 2. If someone addicted to heroin wants to stop using, she should just detox.

Truth: “With just detox, and not providing additional treatment, the relapse is almost instantaneous,” Tai said.

Only about 5 percent to 10 percent of people who detox will be able to stay drug-free with just detox, said Theresa Winhusen, professor and director of the Addiction Sciences Division within the UC College of Medicine psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience department.

But detox is necessary for one of the FDA-approved medications for opioid addiction. Tai noted that research shows people who detox in a jail can remain free of opioid-seeking behavior if they follow incarceration with injectable naltrexone, known commonly as Vivitrol, and counseling. The non-narcotic blocks the effects of opioids.

Tracy Plouck, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said that “the concept of abstinence-based approach to recovery has been very strong here historically,” but noted that science shows that medication-assisted treatment is what works best for most people addicted to an opioid.

Tracy-Plouck-Director-OHDeptofMH&AS
Tracy Plouck, director, Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

“You should not be nodding off when you’re using the correct dosage of medication,” said Dr. Christine Wilder, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience in the UC College of Medicine and medical director of addiction sciences for UC Health.

Anyone who has that happen should get their dosage checked.

Myth 3: Using methadone or buprenorphine is just trading a drug for a drug.

Truth: “This is the biggest myth,” Tai said.

She said “plenty of research has indicated, once the patient is maintained on methadone, the patient regains normal functioning.” That means that people who are given an opioid medication, such as methadone, regain normal function of their behaviors, their mental health, their immune system and general health.

Myth 4: It’s their fault, or their parents’ fault, that they are heroin-addicted. 

Truth:“Nobody is to be blamed,” said Tai, noting that research shows that genetics and environment play a part in the development of addiction disease.

Tai was the keynote speaker Monday at the symposium “Tackling the Ohio Opioid Crisis: Harnessing the Power of Science to Break the Cycle,” presented by UC and UC Health. The Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Training and the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network Ohio Valley Node sponsored the afternoon-long event.

“All that will be normalized,” Tai said.

The medications, when prescribed and used correctly, do not affect patients the same way as using heroin or another opioid would.

Link to the original article here: Four addiction myths busted by national, local, state experts