Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Can Drug Rehabs Treat Mood Disorders?

addict art.jpeg

Awhile back the Washington Post ran an excellent article by Maia Szalavitz entited, “So, What Made Me an Addict? Experts Debate Whether Disease or Defect Is to Blame.”

This question is so crucial to how we treat persons suffering from both addiction and mental disorders, and especially how we deal with those with dual-diagnoses.

Just after I was discharged from Johns Hopkins Hospital, a friend of mine strongly encouraged me to go away to a halfway house of sorts for three or more months … where they treat addicts primarily, and some persons battling mental illness … in order to allow time to heal.


I ran it by my doctor. Did she think three months of AA meetings and yoga and group therapy would pull me out of my depression? Her response was interesting, and one I remember in treating both my bipolar disorder and addiction:

“I don’t know of any facility other than a hospital that is equipped to treat a mental illness like yours. Being removed from your environment for three months or longer is very helpful for a person struggling with an addiction because it is primarily a behavioral disorder. They need to create new habits (healthy ones), and break all kinds of self-destructive patterns. But being away from your family, I’m gathering, would only make you feel more isolated. And it won’t be able to make your medication work any more quickly or be able to find the right combination faster. You are already doing whatever you can do to get well. In my opinion, it’s just a matter of finding the right drug combo until you’re stable enough to do even more cognitive work to recover completely.”


Here are some excerpts from the article. To read the entire piece, click here.

Many people think they know what addiction is, but despite non-experts’ willingness to opine on its treatment and whether Britney or Lindsay’s rehab was tough enough, the term is still a battleground. Is addiction a disease? A moral weakness? A disorder caused by drug or alcohol use, or a compulsive behavior that can also occur in relation to sex, food and maybe even video games?


As a former cocaine and heroin addict, these questions have long fascinated me. I want to know why, in three years, I went from being an Ivy League student to a daily IV drug user who weighed 80 pounds. I want to know why I got hooked, when many of my fellow drug users did not.

A bill was introduced in Congress this spring to change the name of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to the National Institute on Diseases of Addiction, and the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA) to the National Institute on Alcohol Disorders and Health. In a press release introducing the legislation, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) said, “By changing the way we talk about addiction, we change the way people think about addiction, both of which are critical steps in getting past the social stigma too often associated with the disease.”


But opinion polls find weak support for the concept of addiction as a disease, despite years of advocacy by such agencies as NIDA and NIAAA and by recovery groups. A 2002 Hart poll found that most people thought alcoholism was about half disease, half weakness; just 9 percent viewed it wholly as a disease.

So what does science have to say? Addiction research has advanced dramatically since my high school years in the early 1980s, when I began using marijuana and psychedelics, then cocaine, in the hope they would relieve my social isolation. My progression from psychedelics to coke was fed by a definition of addiction that still causes widespread misunderstanding. In 1982 — around when I first tried cocaine — Scientific American published an article claiming it was no more addictive than potato chips. This was based on the fact that cocaine users, unlike heroin users, do not become physically sick when they try to stop taking their drug.


Addiction, by this reasoning, is a purely physiological process, one that results from drug-induced chemical changes in the brain and body. Over time, with heroin and similar drugs, the article explained, the user develops tolerance (needs more of the drug to experience the same effect) and eventually becomes physically ill if he doesn’t have access to an adequate dose. Addiction, by this theory, is primarily an attempt to avoid physical withdrawal.



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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Sam Gyura

    wtf? your posts are leaving me lost

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Christian

    I’m so glad I had no real occasion to try Cocaine before it became widely known that it is in fact addictive. By the time this was known I was well into “phase 2″ of my drinking career. I made no moral choice not to use cocaine, it was expensive. Crack soon came out & pretended to be cheaper. Again I made no moral decision not to smoke crack. Someone told me about a friend no longer interested in anything but crack, not sex, food, music, family, friends, nothing.
    My thought was “I can’t even buy as much alcohol as I want. I sure don’t need something I’ll want more.”
    It wasn’t intelligence or morals that saved me from that. It was God’s grace. It’s been 15 yrs w/o a drop & that has been tough enough.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment dovetail

    The only problem with this definition is the fact that many of us who are “addicted” to substances or processes (for me several, but NOT alcohol +/or drugs)perform our repetitive behaviors compulsively and they are not drug-induced. Something else is going on in our brains that perpetuates the “need” for our substance or behavior. I believe it is not an either/or question, but rather a “both/and” issue. My brain undergoes a change and needs to continuie the behavior to recreate the feeling of euphoria or contentment or whatever it is you want to call it. Those of us who struggle with addictions to food, clutter, gambling, etc. are no less dependent and in no less need of recovery. When we repeat the behavior, we are likely doing so to avoid the anxiety that not repeating the behavior brings.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Sweetp

    I’m so glad that this article was available to read. I battle my dual-diagnosis daily. If its addiction one day its my disorder the other day. Rehab and NA did not work for me. I felt completely punished for my behaviors, my thoughts, my impulsiveness. Until I addressed my mental Illness (Bipolar), was I able to deal with my addiction. By being consistant with my meds, my sanity was restored enough to see my addiction and address it. As a nurse, mother, and grandmother, I was smoking methanphetamines and living in total mania. Some would say it was the drugs that caused my Bipolar behavior, but it was my severe depression, and impulsive thoughts and actions that drove me to self-medicate. I do believe that drugs or alcohol exacerbate the underlying mood disorders in people. My belief is that this is the reason why some become addicted and others dont. Underneath the drug addiction is a disorder wanting to be diagnosed and treated. Nobody wants to grow up being a drug addict. Society wants to continue to call addicts as weak and selfish. The addict not only deals with the addiction but also battle their failure with shame. My favorite statement is the old saying….Just pull yourself up by your boot straps, but if you don’t have any straps on your boots to begin with how can you over come this mountain called dual-diagnosis. Look at the Celebrity Rehab show, Every one has an addiction, but underneath it all, they have serious issues, that they must contend with before they can understand why they use. Whether Drugs, hoarding or bulimia, the addicted must address their disorder before their addiction issues. I wish people would realize that a mental condition is a brain disease just like diabetes is a pancreas disease. Before being diagosed with Bipolar, I felt isolated and ugly as a person. When my Psychiatrist explained to me that my behaviors, thoughts, feelings and actions were related to a disease process, I felt some relief to the guilt and pain of my past. Its then I have been able to remember that I truly have a disability and that I must care and treat myself accordingly. My prescription to heal and recover is: Be aware and understand the disease, educate myself, take my meds, pray, journal, meditate, excercise, eat healthy,SLEEP, remove myself from my addictive environment, know my triggers, surround myself with support, and read aloud positive affirmations to remove negative, and destructive thoughts and behaviors. Over time, little by little, day by day, victories are being made. Sobriety, and Sanity can be mine.

  • orange county drug rehab

    I am cofussed about the post url and the content of the matter. There is for sure some issue on the post

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