Could the MAT Approach to Addiction Treatment Have Found a New Pill?

Could the MAT Approach to Addiction Treatment Have Found a New Pill?

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Apparently there is a new medication called SOC-1 being developed that has the potential to disrupt the treatment industry for addiction and alcoholism.

The Fix says that the pill “works by mimicking the behavior of the hormone oxytocin—a hormone known to promote bonding and social interaction” and that “SOC-1 has more than halved consumption of alcohol down to levels that are not intoxicating.”

In other words, alcoholics and alcohol abusers who are taking this pill do not feel the need to drink as much, though they certainly can if they choose to. But apparently the drug interacts with brain chemistry in a way that causes alcoholics to curtail their drinking naturally.

Sound too good to be true? We shall see as time goes forward. My personal hope is that they continue to innovate and find new medications that can help with addiction and alcoholism, because more and more I think that people want this as part of their solution.

Ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago the mentality was quite a bit different when it came to addiction and medications. The idea was that “drugs are the problem” and that we needed to practice total and complete abstinence in order to really help people. But the new trend is to investigate medications that can help with addiction and potentially use those as part of an overall treatment plan. There are a couple of reasons for this change in the trend.

One, I believe that younger people are expecting for medical science to “fix” their problem, whereas previous generations may have been more open to the idea that recovery was going to take hard work and a “grittier” approach. This attitude change is reflected in the way that newcomers to recovery are more likely to seek out a medical solution or ask about medications that can reduce their cravings. This change in attitudes is not a subtle thing, and I see it over and over again at the level of inpatient treatment.

Two, I think that the current opiate crisis that the US is going through has prompted a response that is searching far and wide for anything that might improve our chances of success. The numbers are fairly staggering in the current opiate crisis, as it is reported that opiates are now the number one cause of death for people under the age of 50 in the US. This is astounding and therefore people are panicking in order to find solutions and they are essentially grasping at any straw that they can find. One of these “straws” in this case is MAT, or in the case of opiates, things like Suboxone.

Three, I believe that there has been a shift in attitude towards the traditional treatment using 12 step philosophy as the “one and only solution.” So people today are still using AA and NA, but I believe that there has been a bit of a shift away from putting those programs on an absolute pedestal the way they were in the past, and people are far more likely to look at alternative programs today. This is part of the shift away from traditional treatment and towards MAT. Again, this is just a tendency that I am seeing and not a hard and fast rule or anything–recovering addicts just seem to be more open to seeking help outside of AA and NA dogma than they were, say, 15 years ago.

So what is going to come of the treatment industry if more and more medications continue to be developed? A couple of things are going to develop I believe. One, people are going to start realizing that the medications that are meant to help, cure, or fix addictions are not going to turn out to be the magic pill that they desire.

What I mean by that is this: People who are seeking out a magic pill to take away all of their addiction problems are setting themselves up for failure in recovery. The reason that I believe this is because of the evidence that I have witnessed while working in an addiction treatment facility. Struggling addicts come in and they are looking to get help for their addiction to prescription painkillers or in some cases, heroin. Some of these opiate addicts will hear about MAT as a solution to their problem and they instantly perk up and get excited about the possibility of a “magic pill” that can take away all of their cravings.

This is an easy trap to fall into, because every addict and alcoholic who is struggling is generally fairly intelligent, and they would like to think that they could beat their addiction if they could just somehow avoid the cravings to get high. They are essentially saying to themselves “if only I could somehow overcome the cravings for drugs, then all of my problems would go away and I could handle my life so much better.”

The MAT solution initially promises to do exactly that–to remove their physical and even their psychological cravings to get high so that they can focus on living their life again. It sounds too good to be true.

Now the evidence that I am talking about here is completely subjective, and is just based on my own observations from struggling opiate addicts who are seeking out MAT when they are in short term rehab. So they are coming out of detox, going through a short term residential program, and they hear about an MAT solution such as Suboxone or Revia. These people then get placed on the MAT medication and they are told that they need to go to meetings, go to therapy, and do all of the regular “work” of addiction treatment in order for the medication to be effective.

But from what I have observed, most people do not follow through in this way. They don’t do all of the hard work, counseling, therapy, and meetings to go along with the MAT. Instead, they have a secret hope that they would never admit to out loud which is this: “I am smarter than average and therefore I can succeed with MAT alone.”

I truly believe that most addicts and alcoholics think this way. They believe that, even though treatment professionals have cautioned them that MAT is only part of the solution, they have it in their mind that MAT will actually be their entire solution. And then they end up failing as a result of this over-confidence.

The solution is to treat MAT as a supplement rather than as a total solution, which the industry already attempts to convey to people, but the stubborn addict just doesn’t hear it. They want the easy fix, unfortunately, and that is producing poor results in most cases.