Substance Use Disorder/ Addiction

  • Dr. Eric Plakun spoke at the Austen Riggs Center Centennial Conference: The Mental Health Crisis in America.

    This video series is taken from our Centennial Conference and features excerpts from many of the presentations – check back often or bookmark the Riggs Blog to see new videos.

    “There is an excessive focus on the biomedical at the expense of the biopsychosocial. . . . there are false assumptions that genes equal disease, that patients have single disorders that respond to single evidence-based treatments, that pills are the best treatment that we have.” states Dr. Plakun.

  • Recreational marijuana is now sold legally in Massachusetts. What does that mean for Austen Riggs?

    Recreational marijuana is now sold legally in Massachusetts. What does that mean for Austen Riggs?

    Massachusetts voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2012 and approved the sale of cannabis for recreational use in 2016. This has led to the recent opening of the state’s first dispensaries—one of them less than 10 miles from Stockbridge and at least two others in Berkshire County with still more planned. Given that half of the patients who come to Riggs for treatment have a diagnosed substance use disorder, the relatively easy access to legal cannabis could add to the challenges they face. 

  • Medication

    In this guest blog, mental health practitioner Alison Mitchell explores the opioid abuse problem, particularly related to its impact on relationships and rural communities. 

    The United States has an opioid abuse problem. Though the issue is widely recognized, addressing it remains challenging, particularly in rural areas. The often-confusing array of behaviors and decisions individuals may make when influenced by drugs can be overwhelming, indeed even alarming. One way to make sense of it all is to think of the drug as playing the role of a substitute for human relationships.

  • Addiction

    The recent New York Times editorial, “If Addiction Is a Disease, Why Is Relapsing a Crime?” explains clearly and succinctly why criminalization of addiction can never be an effective way to reduce drug use, addiction, or death.

  • Hear Austen Riggs Center staff talk about Substance Abuse Services.

    April is Alcohol Awareness Month, founded and sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). As they state on their website, “Alcohol Awareness Month provides a focused opportunity across America to increase awareness and understanding of alcoholism, its causes, effective treatment, and recovery. It is an opportunity to decrease stigma and misunderstandings in order to dismantle the barriers to treatment and recovery, and thus, make seeking help more readily available to those who suffer from this disease.”

  • Read the latest issue – featuring articles on mental health parity

    Read the latest issue of the Austen Riggs Center’s newsletter online – featuring articles on mental health parity, the evidence base for Riggs’ treatment, and the opioid epidemic. 

  • Working in an environment deliberately separated from the intensive treatment atmosphere, patients take up the role of student as they participate in a variety of artistic and intellectual endeavors in the Activities Program.

    As we approach the end of 2017, we thought we’d look back over some of our more popular blogs and blog series from this year.

    Here are five of the most popular blogs from July to September.

  • Something for the Pain

    Suicide and opioid use/addiction have something in common: they are attempts to solve the problem of pain, both physical pain and psychological pain (also known as “psychache”) (Shneidman 1998). Last summer the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a report indicating that death by suicide in the US increased by 24% between 1999 and 2014, translating to 44,193 lives lost each year to suicide–a rate of 13.26 per 100,000 individuals. And this year, in 2017, we have learned that deaths from drug overdoses have increased 2.5 times the rate in 1999, to a rate of 16.3 per 100,000 individuals (Hedegaard, Warner, and Miniño 2017). 

  • Stockbridge Main Street

    Austen Riggs Center guest blogger Dr. Jennifer Michaels writes about the impact of the opioid crisis in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. 

  • Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

    The opioid epidemic is a special problem among those with mental disorders. Of 115 million opioid prescriptions distributed annually in the US, more than half were received by the 16% of Americans with mental disorders (Davis et. al 2017). The Austen Riggs Center doesn’t offer primary addiction treatment, but about half our patients, like Karen*, have a substance use disorder as part of a complicated clinical picture and have often been prescribed opioids unnecessarily.



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