One of the most popular methods of treating addiction with a history dating back about one hundred years is faith-based. Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and sister organization Narcotics Anonymous (NA) often rely on a core principle of surrendering to a ‘higher power’, often God, though some will say to skeptics that GOD is an acronym for ‘Good Order and Discipline’. Many people take issue with the lack of autonomy that is promoted by the treatment method, that surrendering to spirituality has little to do with how normal health treatments operate. For instance, when someone breaks their leg, a doctor performs surgery and provides medication and physical therapy instead of asking the patient to surrender to a higher power in order for that power to heal them.
Addiction, as an area of study, has been seeing a huge leap in knowledge and understanding of how it works both in the brain and how substances used alter the physiology of the brain to promote addictive behaviors. Unfortunately, the new studies and research often don’t translate into anything practical that helps a person suffering from addiction find help.
A recent Cincinatti.com article puts it best:
“Imagine needing rehab for, let’s say, a knee injury..You’d drive around looking for billboards or street signs, text yourself an 800-number to call later, right? Or Maybe you’d just consult social media. No, of course not. You would get clear direction and referrals from your doctor.”
Addiction is still largely treated in the public sphere and by government policy as a personal failing, moral failing, forcing entire behavioral responsibility of an addict, never taking into account modern science that can identify actual brain changes from usage. This tends to lead people to accept the unfounded claims of effectiveness of AA and NA’s twelve step programs, where not only addiction is not effectively treated, but often tries to replace addiction of a substance with addiction to AA and NA itself.
12 step programs can work for a small portion of substance use disorders, but it’s far behind the methods coming out of the medical community, yet doctors who find patients in their hospital from overdose are seemingly behind the curve in such advancements, and don’t know where to send someone suffering from addiction to get treatments.
With the high profile of opioid addiction suppression drugs and overdose prevention medications, that may change, especially as more Medication Assisted Treatments (MAT) come out of the medical and psychology research communities which have immediate effects on craving and effects of drugs. Even behavioral treatments for addictions that don’t have an MAT yet have far surpassed any 12 step program yet are seen as the same as those programs.
Unfortunately, the travel of information that leads into practical application to serve public health is still rather slow, but it is catching up and it’s only a matter of time before the public perceptions and doctor suggestions change to reflect advancements in treating substance use disorder.
Cocaine effects on the brain, as with other substances, will, over time, change a person’s operating neurology, what is known as substance use disorder. It is a chronic illness and treatment involves getting therapy at a rehab for drug addicts. If you or anyone you know is suffering from substance use disorder, call Northbound’s addiction help centers in Seattle at 855-858-6803.