Yesterday, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) revealed their strategic plan for 2018-21 in which they strengthen their focus on the full spectrum of addiction care: prevention, treatment, remission, and recovery. The inclusion of recovery as the ultimate potential within the addiction spectrum, distinct from remission, affirms what many of us have known for decades: recovery means more than the absence of problematic alcohol and drug use from an otherwise unchanged life. This news arguably marks the most significant development in addiction treatment philosophy since ASAM defined addiction as a primary chronic disease of the brain in 2011. To summarize, substance use disorder is not an acute illness, and clinical stabilization (detox) is not where services should end. In a related story, water is wet.
We could choose to see this as a call to action to address social determinants of health throughout the addiction care spectrum – to dismantle obstacles to wellness and citizenship for all people experiencing substance use disorder. We could choose to see it as our responsibility to ensure people with substance use disorder have the opportunity to discover what lies beyond remission – to experience the fullness of life. We could choose to see recovery as the expectation not the exception. We could choose this vision for North Carolina because it is what people deserve.
The indisputable fact is that everybody experiencing substance use disorder has the potential to get better than well. We know many such individuals: teachers, ministers, doctors, social workers, lawyers, nonprofit leaders, cops, politicians, soldiers, moms & dads. The list goes on and on. And, when they get better than well, it benefits our families, our communities, our state, and our nation. These are exciting times to be addiction professionals!
Donald McDonald, MSW, LCAS