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Mass. General Hospital Launches Addiction Research Center

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Massachusetts General Hospital (Steven Senne/AP)
Massachusetts General Hospital (Steven Senne/AP)

Some of the area’s leading addiction researchers and clinicians are joining together to try to help people struggling with addiction and substance use disorders.

The Massachusetts General Hospital researchers have created what’s known as the Recovery Research Institute. It will be a center to conduct research and coordinate information about addiction treatment and the latest research on recovery and addiction.

“One goal is to increase hope and to decrease stigma,” its director, Dr. John Kelly, said. "We also want to synthesize and provide information to the public about recovery because we really don’t have the information we need about research and about treatment so we can help our clients.”

Kelly says more than 23 million Americans are considered to be in recovery, meaning they’ve abstained from drugs or alcohol for at least a year. With those numbers, Kelly says, more people accept that addiction needs to be treated as a disease, rather than a moral failing.

“It’s starting to seep into our cultural consciousness that we are now treating addiction as a chronic disease that needs continuing care over the long term to support recovery,” he said. “People also need to know that 60 percent of people with addiction problems actually achieve full sustained remission.”

Wednesday — the same day that President Obama was touting Massachusetts' health care law — the deputy director of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy, Michael Botticelli, was at MGH lauding the Recovery Research Institute.

“We want to again replicate what’s happening in Massachusetts,” Botticelli, a former Massachusetts health official, said. “This should not be about symptom abatement, but about returning people to lifelong health.”

Botticelli compared the efforts to improve addiction treatment to the advocacy work in the 1980s for treating HIV and AIDS.

"I think when we've seen any kind of stigmatized issue, whether it's HIV or gay rights or addiction, it's really been about people who come out about their circumstances that fundamentally change what our views are — and ultimately change public policy,“ Botticelli said.

The Institute has a website where people can access the information about treatment and addiction research, and share their stories about addiction and recovery:

This program aired on October 31, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

Deborah Becker Twitter Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.