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Healing the Addicted Brain: The Revolutionary, Science-Based Alcoholism and Addiction Recovery Program 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 113 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 076-0789224249
ISBN-10: 1402218443
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Dr. Harold C. Urschel, III is the CEO and Founder of the Urschel Recovery Science Institute and the Chief of Medical Strategy of EnterHealth.com, which have the goal of combining the best behavioral addiction treatments with the latest scientifically proven medications. He is a board certified physician in both addiction and general psychiatry.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Excerpt from Chapter One: It's a Disease!

Everything you know about addiction treatment is wrong.

I can safely make this statement to most laypeople—plus an alarmingly large number of health professionals—without fear of being contradicted. Why? Because most people know very little about addiction, and what they do know (or think they know) boils down to this: addicts can quit if they really want to; all they have to do is commit wholeheartedly to their treatment, which consists largely of "talking therapy"—individual or group psychotherapy or 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous.

That's the sum total of most people's knowledge of addiction treatment. But it's dead wrong. And it's the main reason that the success rate for addiction
treatment is currently only 20—30 percent. This means that 70—80 percent of the participants in any given addiction treatment program will not be successful. No wonder people think that alcohol or drug addiction treatment doesn't work!

Fortunately, recent scientific research has discovered new avenues of treatment by showing conclusively that addiction is a chronic physical disease that attacks the brain, damaging key parts of the cerebral cortex and limbic system. This brain damage cannot be reversed by talking therapies; only select new medications and continued sobriety can do that. But when used together, these new medicines and talking therapies can literally work wonders.

In this chapter we'll look at the new scientific research on addiction and its effects on the brain. (Throughout the book I'll use the word "addict" to refer to both alcoholics and drug addicts, and "addiction" to refer to both alcohol and drug addiction, unless otherwise specified.) You'll learn what happens inside the brain of a person with an addiction, why talking therapy alone doesn't usually work, and how medications can help the brain repair itself, pushing the treatment success rate up as high as 90 percent!

Myths That Lead to Unsuccessful Treatment of Addiction

  • Addiction is a serious brain disease that has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. The shocking statistics say it all:
  • According to the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 22.6 million Americans aged twelve or older abused or were dependent on a substance during the previous year (9.2 percent of the population aged twelve or older).
  • Of these, 15.6 million abused or were dependent on alcohol but not illegal drugs.
  • 3.8 million abused or were dependent on illegal drugs but not alcohol.
  • 3.2 million abused or were dependent on both alcohol and illegal drugs.
  • Approximately 9—10 percent of children ages twelve to seventeen use illegal drugs, and about the same percentage report binge drinking.
  • Each year, well over two million adults use pain relievers for non medical reasons.
  • Over ten million full-time workers between the ages of eighteen and sixty-four abuse or are dependent on alcohol.
  • There are roughly one million drug-related visits to U.S. emergency rooms every year.
  • Americans spend close to $20 billion a year on treatment for alcohol and drug problems.
    Seventy-five percent of alcoholics never enter a treatment program
  • Of those who do seek treatment for addiction, 70—80 percent suffer a relapse soon after "graduating" from these programs.

But perhaps the most frightening statistic of all is the death toll. Alcoholism is the third leading cause of death in the United States, right on the heels of heart disease and cancer. And although no one knows exactly how many additional lives are lost to the abuse of and addiction to drugs, the figure is surely in the tens of thousands per year.

Forty-five-year-old Simon, a high-level chemist at a Dallas-based manufacturer, was referred to me by a drug court judge when he was charged with his second DWI and facing a ten-year prison sentence. His life was in shambles. Alcoholism had put Simon's career in jeopardy and played a major part in the dissolution of his twenty-five-year marriage three years earlier. Since that time, Simon's drinking had progressed significantly. Of his three children, only his son was still speaking to him. Both of his daughters had banned him from their homes after he repeatedly showed up intoxicated and frightened their children. And alcoholism was beginning to take a toll on his health. His blood pressure and cholesterol levels were dangerously high, two classic signs of heart disease. And the whites of his eyes had taken on a yellowish tinge, indicating malfunction of the liver. All of these problems, his doctor told him, were directly related to his alcohol use. And yet he had never sought or received any treatment for his alcoholism.

Simon's story is not unusual. A full 75 percent of alcoholics are not in treat­ment for an illness that causes nearly as many deaths as heart disease or cancer. Why isn't our current treatment system working? At the inception, our ability to prevent and treat addiction is drastically hampered by two myths.

Myth #1: Addiction is a kind of "personality disease." People with addictions are often branded losers, sinners who refuse to face up to their evil ways, or weaklings who can't "suck it up" long enough to throw off their bad habits. The media does much to contribute to this belief. We've all seen the endless parade of stories about Lindsay Lohan, Robert Downey, Jr., Liza Minnelli, and countless other celebrities who bounce in and out of treatment programs. But after spending $80,000—$100,000 a month for treatment, they all seem to race right out to a bar or to meet their dealers, diving head first back into old destructive behaviors. Since they appear to be getting the best possible (or at least most expensive) treatment available, the perception is that it must be their own fault that they can't stay sober; they must not be trying hard enough.

Myth #2: "Talking therapy" is the only significant treatment. Talking therapy is a series of discussions through which the addicted person learns the coping skills needed to deal effectively with stress and other issues related to the addiction. Most health professionals—physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, and addiction counselors alike—believe that the best possible treatment for alcohol or drug addiction is some sort of talking therapy, such as group therapy plus individual counseling, coupled with participation in an ongoing 12-step program. Unfortunately, this approach works for only a meager 20—30 percent of patients, a fact that has convinced most healthcare providers that addiction is not treatable.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks; 1 edition (April 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402218443
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402218446
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I expected more from a doctor that has made it his career to "help" alcoholics and addicts.

Throughout the book, the author repetitively tells the reader to access more information and resources at the EnterHealth's (the rehab facility the author is affiliated with) website... of course the author never once mentioned that to access that information and those resources would cost $95 and rapidly escalate up for telephone support (and given the track record, that access will probably point the reader to residential rehab at EnterHealth's facility). Most sales brochures are free, but this one puts the addict and family back about $11.

Also, the climax of this book seems to be the author's fascination with Vivitrol (injectible naltrexone). Author (page 73): "Vivitrol is the breakthrough medicine that will revolutionize the treatment of alcoholism." Wow. In its page-after-page of glowing review the author fails to mention any real downside. Such as throughout a randomized trial of Vivitrol craving persisted (leaving patients to struggle over obsessive thoughts and addictive craving that carry the risk of relapse and death) and there was no progressive decrease in heavy drinking days after the end of the trial. [Source: "Naltrexone treatment for alcohol dependency," Journal of the American Medical Association 294(8) (August 24/31, 2005): 899-900] And, those with liver issues should not take Vivitrol, ... a problem for a certain percentage of people that are alcoholic. That the author doesn't even mention some fascinating research into other medications, such as Baclofen -- a generic no less, shows either bias or ignorance of current trends in research and thought.
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Urschel's book is quite simply intellectually dishonest. He obviously knows his stuff, but the book reads like a multi-level marketing scheme filled with a bunch of simply wrong-headed claims with no references to speak of to back them up.

"Talking therapy can help correct problems in the cortex, but it cannot influence the limbic system or other structures found deeper in the brain."

This is bogus, just bogus, and he provides no reference. Where is he coming up with this??? As a therapist who studies neuroscience, he's just flat wrong. There's not a neuroscience lab in the world that would agree with this statement. Look at the work of Richie Davidson at U of Wisconsin, Jim Coan at U of Virginia, Daniel Siegel at UCLA, Dacher Keltner at UCLA, Jon Kabat-Zinn at U of Mass., and the list goes on and on.

His constant use of "talking therapy" to refer to psychotherapy and counseling, and the contexts in which he used it felt a little bit denigrating after a while, again from a guy who obviously has a severe case of money-making agenda-itis.

Reading the book felt like he was just trying to discredit everything except his "wonder drug" and his highly expensive website services.

Apart from that, if you're an addict or looking for help for an addict, just go to his website and see what it costs to sign up -- if you want to pay that, then get the book. But there are a lot better books out there and some great research (despite what Urschel says) that are showing excellent results...I would pass on this guy's magic pill.
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Dear Dr. Urschel, I found the only new information in your book to be about the course of new medications for the addicted and how those medications can aid in recovery. However, I know of no doctors that a person without insurance can go to and get treated with these wonderful breakthrough tools. It appears as though the only place to go for a complete treatment program is your private pay program, and it cost $37,000. And even though you have a "Donate" site on your page that is supposed to fund scholarships, no one has donated. Perhaps maybe you should be the first one, Dr. Urschel. After all, your book did cost me about $15.99, plus tax, plus shipping.
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A family member read the book, went to the treatment program in Texas. The family member was sober at the time, having detoxed themselves before heading there - they had been completely sober for two weeks. A doctor talked the family member into taking the drug soboxone saying it would be helpful to the brain in the recovery process. No matter how much the family member resisted the doctor eventually talked them into taking the drug. When the family member returned home after a 60-day stay they continued to visit the clinic in town to get the psychiatrist to give them the soboxone script. The family member became a walking zombie, completely lost all motivation to do anything. They didn't want to use the street drugs anymore, but became a raging gambler instead, stumbling around in a drunk haze, completely deadened, with no sense of right or wrong and completely out of control. The drugs cost $400 dollars a month, the recommended doctor visits consisting of a psychiatrist and a psychologist (who you are referred to by the center) another $400 a month, but the patient was still dependent and appeared to be slightly brainwashed. Despite all the drugs and the talking and the treatment center the patient gambled away a small fortune! It was very scary. Our family spent almost $70,000 at this center and there hasn't been a single phone call to check on them! The psychologist who was so concerned about the patient, hasn't picked up the phone to inquire after the patient since they discontinued going there. The center psychologist and the post-treatment psychologist made the patient feel so loved and cared for at the sessions, but not a call since the sessions discontinued leaving the family member feeling even more worthless.Read more ›
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