Treating Addiction

May 2, 2014 • Volume 24, Issue 17
Is medication the best way to treat drug abuse?
By Jane Friedman


The number of Americans dependent on or abusing heroin more than doubled (Getty Images/Universal Images Group)
The number of Americans dependent on or abusing heroin more than doubled from 2002 to 2012, to 467,000 people. With deaths from heroin and prescription painkillers on the rise, Attorney General Eric Holder says many communities face a public health crisis. Treatment professionals differ over what causes addiction and how best to treat it. (Getty Images/Universal Images Group)

An estimated 22 million Americans are dependent on or abusing drugs or alcohol, at huge costs to society. Deaths from overdoses due to heroin and other opioids, including the prescription painkillers OxyContin and Vicodin, are on the rise, with many parts of the country fighting what U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has called a public health crisis. But the way to stem the crisis isn't clear. Scientists and clinicians differ over what causes addiction, with some calling it a genetic disease and others contending that its roots are psychological or psychosocial. And with differences over the causes come disagreements over the way to treat addiction. The controversial medication buprenorphine is being prescribed to opiate addicts in a bid to reduce the number of deaths. But some clinicians believe the 12-step program pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous, coupled with psychotherapy, still represents the best chance for recovery.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Drug Abuse and Trafficking
Aug. 06, 2021  Opioid Crisis
Jul. 24, 2019  Opioid Addiction
Jun. 14, 2018  Opioid Addiction
Jun. 29, 2017  Drug Abuse
Oct. 07, 2016  Opioid Crisis
Jul. 19, 2016  Drug Abuse
May 02, 2014  Treating Addiction
Jun. 03, 2011  Teen Drug Use
Jun. 12, 2009  Legalizing Marijuana Updated
Dec. 12, 2008  Mexico's Drug War
Feb. 09, 2007  Combating Addiction
Jun. 02, 2006  War on Drugs
Jul. 15, 2005  Methamphetamine
Jul. 28, 2000  Drug-Policy Debate
Nov. 20, 1998  Drug Testing
Jan. 06, 1995  Treating Addiction
Mar. 19, 1993  War on Drugs
Feb. 23, 1990  Does the War on Drugs Need a New Strategy?
May 20, 1988  The Business of Illicit Drugs
Jan. 23, 1987  Experimental Drugs
Feb. 08, 1985  The Fight Against Drug Smuggling
Aug. 27, 1982  Cocaine: Drug of the Eighties
Jun. 11, 1982  Prescription-Drug Abuse
Jan. 23, 1976  Changing U.S. Drug Policy
Dec. 13, 1972  World Drug Traffic
May 27, 1970  Heroin Addiction
Jan. 27, 1965  Psychotoxic Drugs
Jul. 18, 1962  Narcotics Addiction: Punishment or Treatment
Sep. 05, 1956  Control of Drug Addiction
Mar. 28, 1951  Drug Addiction
Drug Abuse
Genetic Disorders and Medical Genetics
Substance Abuse