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On The Addiction Front

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Two addiction related items have caught my attention in the past few weeks. First is an idea that I have blogged about before, but science, in its single-minded purpose, keeps missing an underlying problem.

Frustrated by the high relapse rate of traditional addiction treatments, scientists are working on a strategy that recruits the body’s own defenses to help addicts kick drug habits.

The new approach uses injected vaccines to block some addictive substances from reaching the brain. If a vaccinated addict on the path to recovery slips and indulges in a drug, such as tobacco or cocaine, no pleasure will result.–WSJ

Much of what this article is talking about centers on nicotine addiction where there is some indication that a vaccine can be developed. Nicotine works in different ways and we respond as nicotine addicts in some different ways behaviorally. There is little hope for the same thing for alcohol. Or even other drugs of abuse. The reason is simple. There is a habitual awareness of…

Hey! If I keep using this, SOMETHING is going to happen. I’m going to feel SOMETHING. I just need MORE!!!!

Intellectually, we know that because we are taking this medication to stop the effects (or have had the vaccination) we will not have the effects. But that deep reptilian brain doesn’t know- or care. “Give me more. It’s supposed to work,” is what happens. We obey. The danger is obvious. Overdose occurs as we try to satisfy the reptilian pleasure center.

The second item that appeared a couple weeks ago prompted me to ponder, “Well, yeah….”

Only 1.2 percent of the 7.4 million American adults whose alcohol abuse is untreated think they need help, a new report shows. The results were released by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

The survey also found that only 7.8 percent of the nearly 6 million American adults with untreated alcohol dependence, which is more serious than alcohol abuse, realize they need treatment.
–Join Together

The results provide “striking evidence that millions of Americans are in serious denial regarding problem drinking,” Pamela S. Hyde, administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said in a statement.
Live Science

Anyone who knows an alcoholic (or addict) knows that denial is at the heart of the drugs’ bio-psycho-social heart. It is not that they are lying when they say they don’t need or want treatment or wouldn’t find treatment able to help them. It is a cunning, baffling, powerful mixture of believing what we want to believe. It is the misunderstood misconception that is at work- I am okay. I don’t need any help.

Sometimes that is a misdirected sense of power. Sometimes it is hopelessness. Sometimes it is just blaming others. But in the end it is deadly.

Because addiction and alcoholism have so many aspects and factors that grow and “metastasize” in our neurochemistry no one thing alone will break through this. Which is where these two articles come together. A vaccine alone won’t do it if we are prone to relapse because of seemingly intractable denial. Breaking denial alone won’t work if the internal, neurochemistry has us prone to severe cravings and self-destructive habits.

As the treatment field broadens and deepens we will find more and more integration of these aspects. Hopefully, we will then see relapse rates drop and an increased perception that treatment in many different forms can and will help.

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