The Addictions Coach: Treating Addiction with Addiction Medicines
Would you consider this to be trading one addiction for another? Switching an illicit drug to a big pharma medication that is not even organic but chemical? Read the excerpt from the article below regarding addiction medicine. What are your thoughts?
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Treating addicts: The tension between drug treatment and abstinence
Marvin Seppala wrote a book on conquering drug addiction with counseling and group therapy.
The spiritual, abstinence-based strategy pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous and adopted by Narcotics Anonymous helped him overcome his own alcohol and cocaine addiction when he was 19. As medical director of Minnesota’s Hazelden clinic, he watched it work for patients.
He believed in it — and then he changed his mind.
In 2007, Seppala began working at Beyond Addictions, a now-defunct treatment center in Beaverton, Ore. Instead of relying solely on counseling and 12-step programs, the center gave its patients a relatively new medication, buprenorphine, to relieve their drug cravings.
Back in Minnesota, his patients had been bailing out of treatment to use illicit drugs again. In Oregon his patients on buprenorphine weren’t relapsing or overdosing — they reported feeling “normal” again.
Nearly a decade later, physicians and brain researchers say that drugs such as buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone are the most effective anti-addiction weapons available. Nevertheless, more than two-thirds of U.S. clinics and treatment centers do not offer the medicines. Many refuse to admit people who are taking them.
The result is that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Americans are dying unnecessarily, victims of an epidemic that killed more than 28,000 people in 2014 — more than homicides and almost as many as highway fatalities. At the beginning of his State of the Union address last week, President Obama took note of the opioid epidemic, saying that helping people addicted to prescription drugs was a bipartisan priority.
The research is unassailable: Staying in recovery and avoiding relapse for at least a year is more than twice as likely with medications as without them. Medications also lower the risk of a fatal overdose.
Addicts who quit drugs under an abstinence-based program are at a high risk of fatally overdosing if they relapse. Within days, the abstinent body’s tolerance for opioids plummets, and even a small dose of the drugs can shut down breathing.
And yet, as the country’s opioid epidemic worsens — every day, more than 70 Americans die from overdoses, and the numbers are climbing — only about a fifth of the people who would benefit from the medications are getting them, according to a study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Opponents say that while addiction medications such as buprenorphine reduce cravings, they don’t attack the underlying psychological problems that often go with addiction. Nor do they address shame, guilt and self-loathing, as counseling does.
Robert Mooney’s belief in abstinence has never wavered. As medical director at Vista Taos, a treatment center in New Mexico, he refers his patients elsewhere if they want to take medication. “What we do here is abstinence-based, because there are some people that nothing else will work on,” he said.
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