ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When it comes to addiction, the cornerstone, and often first step of most treatment programs, is abstinence.
Those struggling with addiction are told to completely stop using the substance or performing the activity to which they are addicted. University of New Mexico scientist and professor Katie Witkiewitz hopes her research will help modify that approach, especially for those who do not seek help and also help those who are sober avoid relapse.
Currently Witkiewitz and her colleague Eric Claus at UNM are researching how the brain changes when heavy users reduce their alcohol intake. She said while abstinence is preferable, it’s not the road everyone is willing or able to take.
“One of my main focuses is the idea that harm reduction might not require abstinence,” she said. “Of people who might need help, 90 percent never seek treatment.”