1 Reject the view that America's drug problem is unsolvable and that addicts can't be successfully treated. Traditional approaches have failed, but research has led to breakthroughs in prevention and treatment that offer help for every addict, and for our nation.
2 Understand that drugs don't cause addiction, life does. People become addicted because of genetic factors, the age they begin using, their environment and mental health, and stress. Effective prevention and treatment are tied to a recognition of why people use and abuse drugs.
3 Lessen the likelihood that children will abuse drugs by helping them navigate the challenges they face. Ninety percent of addicts begin using as teenagers. Help kids grow up healthy.
4 Get help as soon as drugs become a problem. The traditional approach to treatment insisted that addicts needed to hit bottom before they could stop using, but that's an archaic, misguided and dangerous philosophy. Do not wait for an addict to hit bottom. If drug abuse isn't being treated, it usually gets worse.
5 Understand that addicts aren't bad people — they're ill. For too long, addicts have been judged as selfish hedonists out for a good time. But bad behavior that appears to be a choice is a symptom of this chronic and progressive brain disease.
6 Try AA, but remember that it's only one of many available treatments. If it doesn't help or isn't enough, seek other options. Don't blame the patient when Alcoholics Anonymous (or any other treatment) fails.
7 Go to a doctor — one trained in addiction medicine. And get a second opinion.
8 Choose evidence-based treatment — that is, treatment that science has shown to be effective in treating the disease. Reject programs based on tough love, pseudoscience, contrition and punishment.
9 Addicts' bodies must be detoxified, but that's not all it takes to treat addiction. Purging drugs from the body is the essential first stage in many cases, but it's not enough to prevent most addicts from relapsing. Follow detox with primary treatment.
10 Treat dual diagnoses. Most addicts have one or more psychological disorders along with their addiction. In most cases, if both aren't treated, neither will be.
11 Do all you can to prevent relapse, but don't consider it a sign of defeat. Relapses can be fatal, but they're often a part of recovery from the chronic disease of addiction. If relapse occurs, address it immediately and adjust treatment accordingly.
12 End the war on drugs and treat addiction for what it is — not a criminal problem but a health crisis. As a nation, we must fight the right war: not against drugs but against addiction.
SOURCE: DAVID SHEFF