Though sometimes it seems like it’s becoming more and more common to understand that addiction treatment requires addressing needs across the spectrum of humanity. Yet, the treatment community still primarily employs 12-step programs as the means of treating various addictions. I think that 12-step programs can provide support; however, certain substances such as alcohol, heroin, and nicotine create a strong physical dependence that must be addressed through a medical professional.
For example, if a person is addicted to alcohol, then whether or not she attends 12-step meetings she should also seek assistance from a doctor who can discuss various pharmacological interventions such as Naltrexone or Acamprosate. These medicines are indicated to treat alcohol dependence and when used in conjunction with counseling and support groups, are highly effective. Yet, too often, addicts are discouraged from seeking these medicines in favor of “cold turkey” approaches.
To me, not addressing the physical dependence associated with alcohol addiction is almost cruel. Because alcohol is so destructive to the liver and brain, to not include a medical professional within a treatment program is to limit both the odds of successful recovery and the potential for complete health. I realize that long-term alcohol dependence does cause almost irreversible damage to the liver; however, getting as healthy as possible seems to me to be the overall better option than to not only suffer from the physical sickness, but also from the psychological pain of being “too weak” to fight the cravings that come with alcohol addiction.
I have seen and known several people addicted to alcohol. Those who recognize and seek intervention from their health care professional tend to have safer and stronger recoveries than those who refuse to talk with a health care provider (I include nurse practitioners and physician assistants within the provider defintion).
I urge people to learn about meds that are useful within a comprehensive treatment program. Take the time to google, “Acamprosate for alcohol dependence treatment” and “Naltrexone for alchohol dependence treatment” and learn about their benefits. I believe that the more tools we can use to fight an addiction, the better off we are. 12-step programs have their place, but treatment providers should also partner with the medical community for the overall best chances of a healthy recovery.