It”s been amazing watching addictive diseases go from untreatably severe to problems that are manageable.

I am a physician and my job is to identify and, if possible, stop disease.

Learning how to identify and treat disease is a lifelong process, and I have the fortune in my career to have studied and treated one of the most complex and least understood disease processes—drug addiction.

My father was one of the first scientists to study alcoholism. His enthusiasm led to my interest in alcohol, opiate, and stimulant addiction, which blossomed into a career in clinical research for addiction treatments.

In contrast to my father, I also treat patients. I have been in practice for 30 years and have had the extraordinarily good fortune to watch addictive diseases go from untreatably severe—often ending in death—and turn into manageable problems.

Addiction is devastating.

People with untreated opiate addiction have a 10-year mortality (death) rate of 30%. That’s right: 3 out of 10 people who abuse heroin or other opiates die within 10 years. Yet when treated with methadone and buprenorphine (Suboxone), the mortality rate dramatically decreases to the average rate for people from the same age group. So far there are no cures for addiction, but our deeper understanding of its biology has lead to medical treatments that are saving lives.

Alcoholism—the Ignored Disease

If you ask the average American to list the most deadly diseases, alcoholism doesn’t make the cut. Yet alcoholism is devastating, destroying lives and killing more people than diabetes. Despite this toll, most people have no idea what makes a person an alcoholic, how to identify early problem drinking, or how to treat the disease.

Part of the problem is that alcoholism is often viewed through a binary lens—you are either a flawed person or the inevitable victim of something purely biological. In fact, like most important problems in life, voluntary choices combined with biologic vulnerabilities lead to the eventual disease state.

Both my approach and Ria Health’s philosophy are to provide tools to enable better choices of when and how much to drink, while also addressing underlying biological motivators of behavior.

In my upcoming blog posts, I will provide medical and scientific viewpoints on reasonable alcohol use, in contrast to alcoholism. If you have a topic you’d like to see discussed, please comment below and we will do our best to address your interest.

And it goes without saying, if you’re having difficulties managing your drinking, I’m here to help you.

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