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Genetic testing could hold the key to treating addiction

New testing is helping addicts get to the root of the problem

NEW ORLEANS — By now, many of us know that drugs can be addictive and even deadly, but what if we could get into the brain of an addict, right down to the genetic level?

That is what's happening at treatment centers across Louisiana. 

Joe Wusnack says the smart recovery and genetic testing out patient program at Lake Wellness Center is helping to change his life. 

"Coming from in patient, directly out, is a very big change," said Wusnack, 53, of New Orleans. "You need that accountability. You need that structure, and you need those tools to segue back into life." 

Through genetic testing, he learned that his brain chemistry did not generate the same positive feelings that others do.   

"Therefore, I've always looked for some way to make that happen," he said, referring to his addiction. "It can be recognized. It can be treated." 

Wusnack remembers the first time he was treated with prescription medication.

"My exact words were, 'Wow, this is what a normal person feels like. This is what a normal person feels like,'" he remembers. 

Therapist and clinical manager Colin Buchanan says when patients get a diagnosis using the latest science, then get the proper medication, they are significantly more likely to stay sober.  

"If there is a deficiency in the mid-brain with low dopamine, there is a hot chance that someone will be prone to addiction. So a lot of treatment is not necessarily stopping the substance, it's actually focusing on regulating those dopamine symptoms, which will help individuals feel better," said Buchanan, a Licensed Master Social Worker, who is a Therapist and Clinic Manager at Lake Wellness Center Uptown. 

But medication is only step one. The next part is individual and group counseling. 

"We want to make sure that we change the way they think, and they change the way they act, to be able to live a productive and happy life," Buchanan said.  

"What this program gave to me were actual tools I could use in, not just recovery, but every day life," Wusnack said. 

And now Joe is helping others as a group counselor. 

There are Lake Wellness Centers in New Orleans, Covington, Metairie, Baton Rouge, Houma, Lafayette, and Lake Charles. For more call 504-676-LAKE or 1-888-488-LAKE (5253).

To learn more, visit their website by clicking here.