Treatment of Addicts (Part 2)

What could we have done to help you?

I get this question constantly and from a variety of concerned parties. When I told my mom I was writing a drug memoir of sorts she said, “those are a dime a dozen, you should really write something geared towards parents on how to help their addicted children“.

As usual, she made a valid point. The best thing I could come up with at the time was “don’t have children“, but it forced me to think about the issue.

I could never write an entire book on the subject because the short answer is ‘I don’t know’. I certainly know what hasn’t worked. Although, I hate when people settle for fighting against something rather than standing for something. It’s just so lazy. So, to honor my single moral value, here’s what you can do to help:

Do your research.

There is a ton of anecdotal evidence advocating for one type of treatment over another. This is especially true when it comes to 12 step groups, which when evaluated on a clinical level showed less than an eight percent recovery rate. This was proved in multiple studies and eight percent isn’t much higher than the spontaneous recovery rate. The most effective tool for helping addicts get into recovery, again according to multiple studies, is a one hour talk with a knowledgeable doctor.

Keep them connected.

I recently watched a clip on addiction that said the antonym for addiction is not sobriety, but connection. Addicts are isolated. They may have started off isolated and used drugs/alcohol to connect to others. Even if that wasn’t the case, hiding things and lying all the time makes you feel alone. The worst thing you can do to someone who feels alone is to banish them to some treatment center, especially if the addict has gone to college and the rehab is state-funded. They probably won’t make many friends and just end up feeling more alone. I think outpatient rehab is a joke, but I know it works for some people. I’d encourage people to look at inpatient treatment as a last resort kind of measure. Like if your wife keeps dying on the sofa while she’s supposed to be watching the kids.

Doctors are your friends.

Some of the best treatment I’ve received have been from licensed physicians and psychiatrists. Who are you going to trust with your life? Someone who has studied the human body for over a decade or someone on welfare you met at an NA meeting whose only accomplishment is that he stopped smoking crack? One of the worst things I ever did was let 12 steppers convince me that I couldn’t take certain medications. It is downright dangerous that laymen have taken to giving addicts advice on mental health, but it happens every day. Find a good doctor and remember they can’t help you if you aren’t honest about what’s really going on.

Consult the Europeans.

Like most things, are neighbors to the east are far more advanced in addiction treatment. Some of the cutting-edge stuff isn’t even legal in the states, like ibogaine therapy for opiate addicts, but there are others you can access with a knowledgeable doctor. One of these is Baclofen, a medication that acts on your GabaB receptors. A doctor in France wrote a whole book on how he cured his alcoholism with the drug. There are even Baclofen evangelists! This medication has cut my cravings in half. The problem is that the drug has been off patent for decades, and no one’s going to make any real money off it. You’ll never see it in the states, where treatment has become a profit driven machine much like privatized prisons.

Give them space.

For most people this will be impossible. Having dated a drug addict or two, I know what it’s like to be on the opposite end of things. It’s scary, and it fucking sucks. The reality is that an addict won’t stop using until they’ve had enough. I listened to a podcast that stated the purpose of rehab is not getting people to stop using (since all you have to do is stop buying drugs/alcohol) but rather getting people to want to stop using. The speaker admitted that this was almost impossible to accomplish. I wasted a lot of time in rehabs, especially when I was younger, going through the motions to reach a goal I didn’t even want. Don’t force someone into recovery because you will just be wasting a lot of money and energy.

Everyone is different.

This is the most important one, and probably the biggest issue with current addiction treatment. All rehabs and most therapists preach that “every addict is the same”. If you graduated from middle school, you’ll know that this is bullshit. People are different and different things work for them at different times. There were times that Suboxone really worked for me, and other times complete abstinence was the best path to take. Remain open to anything that’s going to improve the addict’s quality of life, and never shut something down just because you have anecdotal evidence that ‘it doesn’t work’.

There is no cure.

When I was first prescribed Suboxone, I was convinced it was the cure for addiction. When I was heavily involved in 12-step recovery, I also thought it was the cure. After reading an article in National Geographic, I was briefly convinced that electromagnetic waves were the cure. Sadly, there is no one pill or treatment that will cure addiction. At least not yet, but I’m confident that we will get there before I die.

Just try not to focus all your energy on ‘being in recovery’. There are a lot of things you are going to wish you did before your kids unplug you at the nursing home. Sitting in more church basements or rehabs probably won’t make the list.

20 Comments

    1. Yeah I’ve checked back to your page a couple of times since I enjoy your articles! Sigh, real life is usually more important though 🙂

      I would LOVE to have an article featured on your site! Email me at Nicholaswilt89@gmail.com and we can figure out how to best accomplish that. Since I’m not posting every day would like to post something of yours on my site as well.

      Nick

  1. Wow. You went in a different direction with this one and thanks.
    Your advice about dealing with a loved one with a substance use disorder is pretty common sense to me but I needed to hear it again. (My brother is going through it and we, as family members are trying to control , I mean help him.). 🤭. I also was impressed with Johann Hari’s ted talk on the lack of connection problem. Gabor Mate thinks it’s all due to childhood trauma. Steven Slate says it’s all a matter of preference and if you just read his book you’ll see that. The truth is, it’s a very complex problem that has a complex solution. Different for each one of us. Reducing harm is probably the best we can do.

    1. “and we, as family members are trying to control , I mean help him” ….have truer words ever been spoken?

      You are spot on regarding it being a complex issue. The only BAD thing you can do for someone suffering from an addiction is put them in a box with everyone else and tell them there is only ONE way to get out. Fortunately for your brother, you understand something that most in the treatment community will never realize. Love ya!

  2. Ok, this post was for your Mom and it serves a purpose. Now let’s get back to the good stuff: your story and the way you present it, with your sarcastic wit and humor. I spent a couple of decades in 12-step and I really enjoy your perspective on it. Within 12-step, criticism of of 12-step is not allowed, which is interesting in and of itself. I know I benefitted from my time in “the program” but…. there are so many buts. It’s possible 12-step saved my life and my father’s,… but. When I stopped going to meetings, even though I didn’t keep drinking, any problems I experienced were seen by my 12-step friends as directly related to lack of meeting attendance. What bothers me most about 12-step (there are many things) is that extremely pathological people can rise to great power and admiration there, based entirely on their sobriety date. I’m sorry to dump this rant onto your post. I hope you don’t mind. Thanks for listening.

    1. No worries man that was an excellent critique! There’s a lot of scary stuff going on ‘in the rooms’ and I belong to several FB groups that expose their hypocrisy and give a safe space to voice criticism.

      And I hear you on getting back to my story, that’s what I prefer to write about anyways. Had to give something back to my loving Maaaa since she’s financed and supported most of my addicted nonsense.

    2. Suppposed soberity date as given by the patholigical person. There is no person at the door cheking soberithy dates its when you say it is. 12 steps save no one you and your father saved your own lives. Denouncing the critic is a cult charcteristic in 12 step groups it is full-blown.

  3. Well said! All of your points are honest and correct. I wish more people would stop and see ‘addicts’ for what they are; or rather, who they are. People, just like them. You, me, Auntie Jane, Uncle Bob, Gramma, the stranger in the supermarket, the doctor, the teacher, their kids. The list goes on and on.
    Thanks for sharing and being so open! Also, that picture says a thousand words.

    1. Thanks as always for your support Meg 🙂

      That picture was taken when I was a Freshman in college. I thought my home made mosquito net was genius! Like all brilliance, it must have been ahead of it’s time though because my friends just made fun of me.

  4. As far as I know addiction is a psyological response to an opiate, making addiction a phenomnon not a behavior. Yet, it is a perjorative term with a social stigma. Why not start to stop isolating people by stopping calling them “addicts.” And start from the premise that everything we thought we have learned since the 70’s is 12 step BS. What the jest of your writing is about is the way we thought in the 70’s a behavior that was accepted, that most people could handle and if you thought you had a problem see a doctor. Dah! The numbers are fine but I’d go with the harvard studies that say 4 to 5% effcetivness giving the 12 steps a succes rate of 0 to -1%. Heck even AA’s own tri-annual survey says 3% effectivness which produce a success rqate when the rate of spontaneous remission is subtracted of -2%. Use AA’s own nubers even if they are not sceintific studies.

    1. And you are absolutely right. Part of eradicating stigma would be not referring to people as ‘addicts’. There are at LEAST ten other things you could use to describe me other than this heinous term. For ease of read I think it was necessary.

  5. This is the premise, the 12 steps don’t do an Fing thing, have nothing to do with treatment, and uyet they dominate a billion dollar industry? Why is that and how do we stop it. How do we kill the mussings of a drunken, acid dropping, womanizing con-artist Bill Wilson from dominating a billion dollar industry?

  6. Yes! Great post, true words spoken. I have buried my husband and brother to addiction and can tell you that no matter how much money you throw at an addict to stop, they won’t. Everyone has to choose for themselves!

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