Tag Archives: Brain health

Addiction: A Brain Disease

Last year, a landmark report from former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy officially categorized addiction as a brain disease, citing that nearly 21 million Americans were directly affected by drug and/or alcohol addiction in the past year—approximately the same amount of Americans who suffer from diabetes. 

Dr. Murthy’s primary argument advocated for a global, cultural shift in perception: changing the way we view those who struggle with addiction. Instead of regarding addiction as an inherent moral failing, Dr. Murthy urged people to understand the ways in which addiction actually manifests as a chronic illness, and one that must be approached with the “same skill and compassion” as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

The American Society of Addiction Medication reports that drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, driven by the opioid addiction epidemic that has resulted in 47,055 lethal drug overdoses in 2014. A 2016 publication revealed statistics that confirmed the direct correlation between overdose rates, sales, and substance use disorders, and prescription pain relievers. As the number of sales of prescription pain relievers has increased, so too has the overdose death rate. Research shows that while the overdose rate in 2008 quadrupled from 1999, so too did the sale of prescription pain pills—in an almost exact parallel. Moreover, the treatment admission rate for substance use disorder in 2009 was six times the 1999 rate. More recent data, according to a report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicate that the nation’s opioid epidemic continues to worsen and accelerate. Emergency department visits for overdoses rose 30% in all parts of the U.S. from July 2016 through September 2017.

Perhaps even more troubling is the data that points to the shift from prescription opioids to illicit drugs like heroin, due to the high pricing and difficulty in obtaining pills. The most disconcerting aspect of the problem, however, likely lies its complexity: while the abuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids is incontrovertibly resulting in greater rates of addiction and an increase in the number of overdoses, prescription medications are also critically important for many people who suffer from chronic pain. The challenge lies in reconciling the many facets and dimensions of the problem—starting with lessening the stigma of addiction, and alleviating the burden of shame that makes many people with substance use disorders less likely to seek help.

Our Spring Congress keynote presenter Brennan Spiegel, MD, MSHS will deliver a lecture titled: “Opioids Haven’t Solved Chronic Pain, Maybe Virtual Reality Can?” Spiegel will discuss the application of digital technologies to chronic disease, as more clinicians and companies attempt to curb and mitigate the worsening opioid epidemic through new adherence technologies.

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The Landscape of Brain Diseases & Disorders

The primary issue that consumes the majority of the burden of healthcare costs in the United States is chronic disease: specifically, as of late, brain diseases and disorders. While primary care providers have long faced the struggle of determining how to implement best practice care for patients diagnosed with chronic diseases, recent studies indicate that almost half of the entire U.S. population has at least one chronic health condition. Statistics designate these health care treatments costs to account for 86% of cumulative national healthcare spending, and the CDC reports that chronic conditions are the leading causes of death and disability in the country.

While recent headlines continuously account for the monetary implications of these disorders, they also impact the very fabric of our society, as these diseases are not confined to one group of people, a specific geographic area, or a certain type of lifestyle: disorders of the brain impact not only your patients, but people you encounter each day. Moreover, the social and financial costs of these diseases are severe.

Roughly 142 Americans die from opioid overdoses each day; 2016 saw 59,000 drug overdose deaths: the highest ever on record. The economic impacts are severe, exacting more than $740 billion in annual costs.

The number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s is currently at 5 million; by 2050, this number could rise as high as 16 million—costing the nation as much as $1.1 trillion.

Cases and diagnoses of ADHD have been increasing dramatically in the past few years, with the CDC reporting that 11 percent of American children have the attention disorder. The economic expenses range between $143 to $266 billion each year.

More than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder; the prevalence of autism in U.S. children increased by almost 120% from 2000 to 2010, making it the fastest-growing developmental disability. Autism services cost between $236 and $262 billion each year.

These diagnoses are multifaceted, nuanced, and complex. In addition to a myriad of doctor’s visits, medical jargon, and an abundance of information, patients and their caretakers must quickly learn to navigate the healthcare system in order to identify the necessary and available services and treatments. These processes require time and resources, committed motivation, and a wealth of support. In order to facilitate education surrounding brain diseases and disorders, the A4M/MMI 26th Annual Spring Congress, taking place at The Diplomat Beach Resort & Spa in Hollywood, Florida from April 13-14, will focus on brain diseases and disorders: the most current and cutting-edge topics in the landscape of modern medicine.

Keynote speakers include Dr. Daniel Amen, Dr. Rudolph Tanzi, Raun K. Kaufman, and Dr. Brennan Spiegel. Renowned double-board certified psychiatrist, educator, international lecturer, and New York Times bestselling author Dr. Amen is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost experts on the application of brain imaging science to clinical practice; his nationwide clinics have the world’s largest database of functional brain scans relating to human behavior, totaling 73,000 scans on patients from 90 countries.

Dr. Rudolph Tanzi serves as the Vice-Chair of Neurology and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. Co-discoverer of three of the first Alzheimer’s disease genes, Dr. Tanzi has identified several other genes through his direction of the Alzheimer’s Genome Project—receiving the highest awards in his field, including TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Raun Kaufman is the author of the book Autism Breakthrough: The Groundbreaking Method That Has Helped Families All Over the World. As a young boy, Kaufman was diagnosed with severe autism. His parents developed the Son-Rise Program, which ultimately enabled Kaufman to recover from his autism with no residual traces. Kaufman currently serves as Director of Global Education for the Autism Treatment Center of America, and holds a degree in Biomedical Ethics from Brown University.

Dr. Brennan Spiegel is the Director of Health Services Research for Cedars-Sinai Health System and Professor of Medicine and Public Health at UCLA, where he teaches digital health science, health analytics and health economics.

At A4M/MMI, we believe that peer-to-peer connections, in conjunction with the latest clinical education, can spur social change—ultimately transforming care and enhancing patient outcomes. Just as spring represents rebirth and rejuvenation, A4M/MMI’s Spring Congress will focus on the concept of ‘brain awakening:’ renewing your understanding of the complex world of the mind, and finding collaborative solutions together. As Leonardo da Vinci aptly stated: “Learning never exhausts the mind.”

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The Link Between Parkinson’s & Gut Bacteria

Recent findings have confirmed a long assumed, yet never officially proven, hypothesis regarding a functional link between the gut’s bacteria and the onset of Parkinson’s disease. While previous research has demonstrated strong correlations between the gut and the disease, no research has shown the exact relationship.

One of the world’s most prevalent neurodegenerative disorders, Parkinson’s affects approximately 1 million people in the United States. A progressive and chronic movement disorder, Parkinson’s involves the malfunction and ultimate death of the brain’s vital nerve cells: neurons. As the neurons that typically produce normal levels of dopamine—the chemical that communicates with the segment of the brain that controls coordination and movement—regularly decrease and dopamine levels lessen, a person becomes unable to control movement. Worsening symptoms include the gradual deterioration of motor symptoms: body tremors, bradykinesia/slowness of movement, rigidity, and severe postural instability.

The studies suggest a new, unprecedented way of treating the disease and its symptoms: targeting the gut, rather than the brain, and developing next-generation probiotics: a more sophisticated version than those readily available for purchase and consumption today.

Through conducting trials during which mice were fed certain short-chain fatty acids that are commonly produced by bacteria in the gut, in addition to actual samples of gut bacteria from human Parkinson’s patients and healthy human controls, the team found that the mice either exhibited symptoms, or did not produce symptoms, respectively. The team’s researchers expressed their hope in the possibility of the prescription of drugs that contain bacteria to prevent Parkinson’s, or treat the disease symptoms. Moreover, the studies imply that Parkinson’s is less related to hereditary genetics than environmental factors—including the onset of age.

At A4M, our overarching goal is to treat—and ultimately prevent—the onset of diseases associated with aging. Attend our upcoming events and learn about the advancement of technology and biomedical engineering, coupled with the most recent research & inquiries into methods that optimize the human aging process.
Be on the forefront of public health and healthcare. Better yourself, your practice, and your patients through our advanced education opportunities.

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