written by Jeff F

A year and a half ago, Newsweek magazine ran this cover story, weirdly titled “What Addicts Need”.  It’s a nebulous, unfocused article which deals almost exclusively with “vaccines and other new drugs [which] may change the way we treat [addiction]”.  Much of it reads as if it were copied and pasted from promotional material supplied by drug companies, with some rather sweeping general statements by some college professors and a Nora Volkow thrown in for substantiation.
Here was my take on the subject, which I posted in the comments section on the Newsweek website:
I’ve noticed that articles like this come out once a year or so. My reaction to them is always something like, “Well, it’s sure a nice idea, but…lotsa luck.” This article has an interesting twist in that the central idea of much of it seems to be, “People will FINALLY come to view alcoholism/addiction as a disease as soon as we invent a pill for it.” Um, OK. Again, I’ll believe it when I see it.

I had my last drink of alcohol in July of 2004. In the 18 months preceding that, I had been actively seeking treatment for my alcoholism. I knew that AA involved praying, God, smoking, talking at length about oneself, and people I wasn’t sure I wanted to be around. It also seemed to me that if alcoholism was indeed a disease, then I’d be better off seeking help from the medical community.

While I was still able (meaning, before I lost my job and my health insurance due to my drinking), I went to pretty much every variety of health-care person that was accessible to me. They all said essentially one thing: “Stop drinking, go to AA.” Never was there any mention from any of these people about Campral or Naltrexone, dopamine receptors or GABA, “delayed discounting”, not even Antabuse.

A little baffled, I shrugged and began to attend AA meetings. Their effect on me and my emotional state with respect to my drinking ranged from none at all, to a marked increase in the depth and degree of my despair.

After months of attending AA meetings, stopping drinking entirely still didn’t seem and had never seemed a reasonable or realistic option. Finally, I agreed to enter a “treatment center”, it being obvious to me at the time that AA wasn’t “working”, and that I needed “treatment”, not AA.

I then discovered what a “treatment center” really was — a place where they throw you in with a dozen or so other nitwits and shove AA down your throat. After surviving 30 days at to what I came to refer as “jail lite”, I left, and six weeks later I was drinking again, with increased fervor and urgency.

At that point, with my job and health insurance long gone, the question of whether I could find “medical treatment” for my “disease” was rendered academic. The only treatment for my alcoholism, I felt, was more alcohol, and I nearly died.

Jeff F

After a period of some months, I found myself in another “jail lite” facility. Again, AA was force-fed. Nowhere was there any mention of anything else described in the article. I spent the first few months of my “recovery” waiting to die.

I can’t explain how it came to pass that I’m sitting here typing this today. My best guess is that I’m simply lucky. I do attend four to five AA meetings a week, and as much as I would love to profess that “the Program” is the reason I’m sober, it would be a half-truth at best. Again, I can’t explain why, but at some point I simply decided that I had had it with the whole business — that enough was simply enough.

Jeff F

[Thank you, Jeff!]