Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a magic pill to cure drug addiction and alcoholism? The old joke is that, if there was such a pill, people would get addicted to it.
Science and medicine continues to try and learn more about the disease, and the pharmaceutical industry is hot on the trail of developing new medications to help fight cravings for various drugs. For example, they have a medication called Campral that is designed to reduce alcohol cravings, and they are starting to experiment with drugs like Modafinal (Provigil) to treat cocaine or amphetamine cravings.
But ultimately, they are at a point right now with the science of it all where they are still very much mystified, and there is no magic pill on the horizon. No one is especially hopeful that they are about to solve the problem of drug addiction through medicine. And there is a very good reason for that.
Addiction is self destruction.
In order to truly medicate the addict or alcoholic, you have to go beyond the problem of brain chemicals. Often, there is an underlying depression or anxiety that cries out beyond the addiction itself, and can force the addict to act in self destructive ways. For example, take the alcoholic who sobers up, but then gets hooked on pain pills. It happens all the time. Or even better, they sober up, but then develop a gambling addiction. Or a sex addiction. And so on.
You can’t fix this sort of self destruction with a magical pill. It is too complex, too variable, too ingrained in the personality.
Better is to realize that no pill is going to fix your addiction, and then take steps to overcome it yourself. This is best done with an holistic approach that (ironically) may or may not include taking medication.
What is important is to realize that your addiction cannot be conquered with medication alone, without any additional work on your part. This is clearly evidenced if you look at Suboxone maintenance patients, who try to take a synthetic opiate in order to avoid heroin or other opiate drugs. Their rate of failure is astoundingly high, even though they are receiving a synthetic opiate in place of their “real” drug.
Why does this happen? Why do these addicts fail, even though they are basically still getting drugs? The reason is because of their mindset, their attitude. They have bought into the idea that this pill is going to remove all cravings for their drug of choice, and that it will thus be extremely easy for them to stay clean.
Obviously this is not the case, and their “magic pill mindset” ultimately leads them to their downfall.
Now, in rigorously controlled studies, medications such as Suboxone show an excellent success rate, but only when the people are following through with additional therapy and counseling. They do not just take the medicine. No, they take the medicine and follow through with a real treatment program along with the pill, and this combination produces a good rate of success.
The problem is that many addicts believe that the pill will work for them by itself, or that the pill will help to motivate them to take the steps necessary to stay clean and sober on their own. They believe that the medication will help to motivate them to work on their recovery. This does not seem to be the case. The drive and the motivation to stay clean and sober has to come first, before the medication is introduced. That is the only way that it will help to assist them in their recovery.
No shortcuts. Not yet anyway.