Unfortunately, drug addiction is one of the greatest problems plaguing our society today. Whether heroin, cocaine, or prescription opioids, an addiction can ruin someone’s life and carries a large social stigma. As the epidemic of opioid addiction continues to spread, a focus needs to be made on treating addiction. Current treatments for drug addiction include behavioral counseling, medication, drug-delivering implants, medical devices and applications for withdrawal symptoms, and medication and counseling to treat mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
Counseling is particularly effective at combatting the psychological effects of drug addiction. Counselors seek to find the root of their patients’ addictions and help guide them to sobriety. Common counseling methods include motivational interviewing, contingency management, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and family therapy. Motivational interviewing is a technique designed to encourage self-reflection in the patient to increase understanding of their potentially self-destructive behavioral patterns. Contingency management is a form of classical conditioning that rewards patients for their efforts and progress while disincentivizing regression and relapse. Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on environmental factors and mental triggers that affect addiction, encouraging patients to identify and avoid potential relapse triggers. Family therapy calls upon the patient’s loved ones to establish a support system to facilitate rehabilitation. While effective at treating the psychological symptoms of addiction, counseling cannot treat the physiological symptoms.
Withdrawal is a tricky condition to treat, especially since it manifests as different symptoms depending on the substance of addiction. Therefore, different medications are prescribed to patients depending on the substance of abuse and the stage of recovery. Most prescriptions are used to treat symptoms of withdrawal, but some can be used to target receptors in the brain to reduce cravings. Both of these can be achieved via drug-delivering implants. However, removal of these implants can be painful and leave scarring. With resorbable drug implants tailored to fight different stages of different addictions, recovery could be greatly facilitated, as the implant could deliver a steady dose of anti-withdrawal or anti-craving medication, meaning that patients need not worry about waking up in the middle of the night due to withdrawal symptoms after their medications wear off, nor do they need to worry about losing precious progress should they forget to take their anti-relapse medication one day. With symptoms of withdrawal constantly weakened a recovering addict can focus on counseling and rehabilitating back into society. The technology that is being developed by the Hera Health Solutions Team could potentially serve as one of the answers to the addiction epidemic.