Pubdate: Mon, 12 Mar 2007
Source: Hartford Courant (CT)
Copyright: 2007 The Hartford Courant
Author: Roger Catlin, Courant TV Critic
Bookmark: (Treatment)


One of four Americans has a primary family member struggling with

Nearly one in 10 Americans over age 12 has a substance-abuse

More than half of all adults have a family history of alcoholism or
problem drinking.

Only 10 percent of the 23.2 million Americans who need treatment for
drug or alcohol problems get it. And 44 percent say they don't get
help because of insurance problems.

These are among the facts presented in the wide-ranging "Addiction"
project by HBO Documentary Films starting Thursday and continuing over
the weekend.

"Addiction," a full-length documentary, will be the centerpiece for
the multimedia campaign, presented when many cable companies are
holding a free-preview weekend for HBO.

It will be accompanied by additional films presented on other HBO
channels, and streamed online. The entire package also will available in
a four-disc DVD package, in a book - "Addiction: Why Don't They Just
Stop?" (Rodale, $29.95) - and in a downloadable podcast.

As the book subtitle sarcastically suggests, the latest research shows
that addiction is not a moral failing - addicts can't just say no -
but a brain disease. The good news is that it is treatable.

The indelible image of the 1987 ad campaign by a Partnership of a
Drug-Free America was a frying egg and the message "this is your brain
on drugs." The HBO program, with access to modern technology, goes a
step further: an actual image of a brain on drugs, in vivid color, in
which brain-mapping devices show the effects and causes of the disease.

"For the first time in all of human history we can peek inside the
brain and see what may be broken," says Anna Rose Childress, a
clinical neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania. "And if we
can see what's broken, we have an idea about how to go about to hope
fixing it."

One of the ways of treating drug addiction, ironically, is through
other drugs.

"We've begun to study a medication that would help quiet things down,"
Childress says. "The hope of the future is that medications and
behavioral treatments that can combine to literally reset the brain."

To seek help is one of the toughest things for addicts, because they
are "discriminated against in ways that people suffering from no other
disease are affected," says David Rosenbloom of the Boston University
School of Public Health.

Among the main points of the "Addiction" project:

. Addiction is a treatable illness.

. Relapse is part of the disease, not a sign of failure.

  The sooner an addict gets treatment, the better. The longer one stays
in treatment, the more likely that treatment will be effective. Not
all treatment plans work for every addict.

  And one needn't "bottom out" to begin to get better.

"This whole idea that an individual needs to reach rock bottom before
they can get any help is absolutely wrong," says Kathleen Brady,
professor of psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina
and past president of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry.

Mostly, the experts say - and the films show - that addiction starts

"This is a disorder of young people," says Mark Willenbring, director
of treatment and recovery research at the National Institute on
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a co-sponsor of the "Addiction" project
with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Institute on
Drug Abuse. "Very little addiction starts after the age of 30. It
almost always starts between the ages of 18 and 25."

Accordingly, some of the most powerful segments of the film show
teenagers who tell of being wasted each day in school, or acting out
in front of parents who don't know what to do.

"Addiction" begins with a segment by director Jon Alpert from a Dallas
hospital emergency room, where half the visits each year are drug-or
alcohol-related. It continues with a Pittsburgh mother's attempt to
find her missing 23-year-old daughter, last seen in a drug haze. A
segment co-directed by Eugene Jarecki ("Why We Fight") looks into the
brain-mapping science studying relapse.

A 17-year-old in Texas is featured in a portion dedicated to the
special problems facing adolescent addicts, whose brains are not fully
developed and at higher risk. A therapy program in Bangor, Maine,
shows the effectiveness of a drug in quelling the cravings of opiate
addicts; another clinic uses one of three approved medications in
treating alcohol dependence.

Barbara Kopple ("Shut Up & Sing," "Harlan County USA") shows how the
Steamfitters Union in New York, whose members used to take pride in
drinking on the job, now fights alcoholism among members. It closes
with an emotional hearing of family members of addicts who were cut
off of insurance to fight the disease.

Other filmmakers involved in the project include Susan Fr-emke, Albert
Maysles, D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus; Alan and Susan Raymond,
Dave Davis and David Heilbroner, and Liz Garbus and Rory Kennedy.

"Our resources are committed to illuminating, demystifying and
defining addiction, a problem riddled with misconceptions," says HBO
Chairman Chris Albrecht. 
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