Q: Can a person be cured of the disease of addiction?
A: Like many diseases, as we treat addiction successfully, damaged tissue in the body can begin the healing process. This may include healing of peripheral organs such as the liver and lungs, as well as healing of the brain itself.
We know the brain has a plasticity to it (neuroplasticity) and is constantly evolving and adapting to various environmental changes. This is critical in recovery, as we aim to stabilize abnormal neurochemistry and work to rewire the pleasure-reward center of the brain. We build new behaviors and rituals to retrain the brain and help the person live a healthy, stable life moving forward.
As in many diseases, the longer someone remains stable in treatment, the better they do. Risks may continue to decrease over time; however, we do not consider someone “cured” of addiction. Those who have struggled with addiction should always be cautious and understand the danger of relapse if they do not remain vigilant in their recovery.
About Dr. Brophy
C. Thomas Brophy, DO, medical director of the Gaiser Center, is one of the region’s few physicians board certified in both Addiction Medicine and Emergency Medicine. Dr. Brophy is experienced in treating the acute aspects of addiction, such as overdose and withdrawal, in the emergency departments of local hospitals. In the outpatient setting, he employs evidence-based medicine and leading-edge Medication Assisted Treatment options to bring hope and stability to individuals combatting addiction. Placing a premium on addiction prevention and awareness, he implemented educational programs in schools across western Pennsylvania and launched the nonprofit Opiate Reform Initiative to educate the public and reduce the stigma associated with addiction.
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