Thursday, October 6, 2011

Registry for Drunks, Druggies Offers Considerable Promise

Warren Bickel
A little while back, I wrote a column for Valley Business FRONT about a researcher named Warren Bickel (director of the Advanced Recovery Research Center of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute) who was doing some interesting work in addiction and recovery. I'm a recovering alcoholic and the study had special interest for me.

Now, it turns out that Bickel and some of his colleagues have formed something called National Quit & Recovery Registry, which “collects the experiences of those in recovery through web-based sharing to enhance scientists' understanding of addiction, whether to tobacco, alcohol, drugs, or harmful behaviors, such as overeating, excessive sexual activity, and gambling.”

I’m not sure what kind of effect this will have on getting people sober, but knowledge of what addicts people and how they are affected by it can’t be bad. Among the serious shortcomings of the medical community in the past has been the almost criminal shortage of addiction as part of physicians’ education. A family physician just a few years ago would typically have one hour of instruction on alcoholism during his entire training which lasts for years, for example. The irony here is that medical people are highly susceptible to alcoholism and drug abuse and even have their own subdivision of AA called Cadeceus.

Says Bickel, "No one has ever systematically looked at people in long-term recovery for clues about beating addiction. Yet we know from neuro-imaging studies that addiction literally changes the structure of the brain. We know, too, that those changes can persist months and even years into recovery. So we're trying to understand the addictive brain by shining a spotlight on the recovery process.

"There is so much to learn. We can learn what methods these recovery heroes used to quit their addiction, and what strategies they use to remain in recovery when faced with challenging circumstances, such as the temptations associated with the holidays. We can learn about their decision-making skills. And, with neuroimaging techniques, we can learn how their success impacts their brain function."

There is woefully little data about how addicts successfully control their disease over a period of time (there is no “cure”) or even how many of them have any degree of success. The best estimates to this point have generally been guesses. The cost in raw numbers—not including the human factor—is staggering:  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, substance abuse alone costs the United States more than $600 billion annually in health care expenditures, crime-related costs, and lost productivity.

Here’s how the program works: On an anonymous and confidential basis, registry participants provide scientists with information about their addictions and their paths to recovery. They also indicate the level of their willingness to volunteer for studies, which may involve the completion of online questionnaires or the undertaking of Web-based tasks. In some cases, registrants may be invited to participate in more detailed studies at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute in Roanoke.

Here’s the link to the registry.

1 comment:

  1. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important.
    I cant believe your not more popular because you definitely have the gift.
    Gambling addiction