Well, I can’t believe it, but we are already in September – Recovery Month.  In my opinion the whole purpose of Recovery Month is to focus on the fact that alcohol and drug addiction exists and yet is very treatable.  I think of Recovery Month as a time to showcase all of the great advances and treatments that have been discovered by scientific research over the last two decades. Why are these research findings important to showcase?  Because these scientific breakthroughs create a great deal of hope for the patients and families that this life-threatening disease affects.  With this hope, many alcoholics/addicts will come forward to ask for the help that they need to beat this illness. I am making a personal time commitment this month to get out into the public light and do my best to spread this message of hope through a variety of talks, lectures and build more awareness of my book Healing the Addicted Brain.   You can stay abreast of my talks and events through my Twitter and Facebook pages: www.twitter.com/HaroldUrschelMD

 But now, back to today’s thoughts…

Michael Jackson – what can we learn from his death? I have a feeling that we will be continuing to see a lot about Michael Jackson in the coming months. Someone recently told me that since his death, there have been over 390 major stories about the circumstances surrounding his death (not counting YouTube, etc). Of course his death was a tragedy. He was a very gifted performer. I personally enjoyed many of his songs, and still do.

In my opinion though, reporters are missing the main story/message from this senseless tragedy.  I think that with the recent “leak” of some of the coroner’s toxicology results and the search warrants, the facts demonstrate that Michael Jackson did have the disease of drug addiction, at least to sedatives (e.g. sleeping medications, and a class of substances called benzodiazepines – like Valium or Ativan).  We can learn from this situation, and Michael Jackson’s death can serve as a platform for educating the world about the chronic brain disease of drug addiction and the fact that it is treatable. I have done a number of news interviews about the addiction issues related to his death. You can watch them at the following links.

So what do I mean when I say that his death can serve as a platform for all of us? Well, I mean precisely that although his death was tragic and senseless, it can elevate the issue of drug addiction into the public spotlight. Once there, the anger and frustration that many people feel about his death can be channeled into building awareness about what went wrong with his treatment and thereby, turn a very negative situation into a positive one. By using his death to educate the public about the latest breakthrough treatments in alcohol and drug addiction (like I do in my book Healing the Addicted Brain, on the website www.enterhealth.com  or even in these blogs), we can literally SAVE lives and families – now that is a POSITIVE turn of events !!  To restate this point, because it is so critically important to our country and the world, Michael Jackson’s tragic death can actually saves thousands, even tens of thousands of lives and families across the US and around the globe.  If we can focus the media on what is important here – drug addiction is treatable with a very high chance of success when treated correctly – then everyone learn from this tragedy.

One of my fears with his death however, is that the public and media frenzy will achieve just the opposite –  a strong sense of pessimism that his death conveys the message that the disease of addiction is untreatable – a message WHICH COULD NOT BE FARTHER FROM THE TRUTH !! I can see many people reading, listening and watching all of the different stories about his death and then drawing the conclusion that, “… if Michael Jackson, as rich and as famous as he was can’t beat this drug addiction thing, then what chance do I have?” They will go on to think, “my situation is hopeless. Nothing is going to help me! He had millions and still died – my chances of staying sober and beating this disease are about zero- why even try and stop?” Similarly and maybe even more tragically, the family member of an addict or an alcoholic may think, “… boy if he could not beat it with all of his money and resources, there is no way my husband can stop his alcoholism (or his addiction to pain pills).” I’m troubled by the fact that thousands of people around the world are having these thoughts based on what they are seeing on television, hearing on the radio or viewing on the Internet.  The media attention around his death could contribute to the development of a sense of “hopelessness” about treatment, and consequently you don’t take a chance and come forward to get help that you need to get better.

If there is one thing that my professional career as a physician specializing in addiction treatment is meant to achieve, it is to keep the above scenario from happening !!!!!!!!  My hope, my mission through my book, with www.enterhealth.com, and this blog is to convey just the opposite message – Michael Jackson should not have died from the chronic brain disease of drug addiction!!!  In 2009, it is so treatable. With the right treatment tools and science-based medications, he would have still been alive today. Don’t you make the same mistake that he did – learn about the latest scientific research results about this disease and you can have a very high chance of successful sobriety, in many cases up to 90%.

I am going to leave you hanging now, because I want you to think about this critically important issue. Look at the book, and/or the website, where I talk about this issue (alcohol and drug addiction really is treatable, if you just get the latest, science-based treatment) in great detail. Then next week in this blog, I will give you my solution to the Michael Jackson tragedy – what I think should have happened from a scientific standpoint. I believe that the current alcohol and drug addiction treatment system in this country and around the world is broken – it’s ineffective for most people. It is using 40 to 50 year old technology to treat a life-threatening illness –no wonder we are not getting better results. But we already have the tools to change this situation in our treatment arsenal, so why don’t we use them – GOOD question! I will talk about that next week.

Thanks for reading.

About the Author

Harold C. Urschel III, MD

Addiction psychiatrist Harold Urschel brings science-based addiction treatments to the general public.

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Revolutionary Recovery: Healing the Addicted Brain

The Growing Problem of Prescription Drug Abuse

Participate in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, April 30, 2011.

Addiction is treatable

Hope for patients and families.