Is it possible that hormone therapy could one day cure alcoholism or drug addiction? It seems like a remote possibility based on some recent findings. Vital Updates says that “oxytocin was suggested to have the ability to lessen the physical and emotional symptoms of opioid abstinence in some studies” and that “the hormone itself didn’t show any abuse or addiction potential.” And Science Daily says that researchers have “found that the oxytocin system is profoundly affected by opioid use and abstinence.” It is the “pro-social hormone,” which may be why AA and NA are effective in treating addiction.
In other words, when the body naturally produces oxytocin, you get a feeling of warmth and togetherness, and this seems to help reduce the effects of abstinence from opiates.
And who knows–there could be other hormones discovered that affect opiate addiction and abstinence as well. Or perhaps they can find ways to pair certain hormones with painkillers to create less addictive medications.
I think it is important to realize, however, that whatever advances they make with hormone therapy in the world of substance abuse, it is probably not going to become an outright “cure” for addiction. The potential for self destruction is always going to exist, and I am not so sure that you can medicate that out of people through any combination of drugs or hormone therapy.
The only real “cure” for addiction is going to involve hard work, personal growth, and self improvement. If we don’t change our habits in recovery then no amount of medication or hormone therapy is going to be able to cure the core of our disease.
The central problem for the struggling drug addict is that they want to escape from reality through self medicating. This has to be overcome with a comprehensive plan in which they learn how to accept their reality again and even thrive in it. In order to make that happen the recovering addict has to start seeking solutions rather than seeking to avoid their problems.
Even if something such as hormone therapy is proven to help with addiction, that type of therapy is always going to be supplemented with therapy, counseling, and some sort of active program of recovery. In other words, any time we think we have found a “cure” for addiction, it turns out that the new “cure” is really just a helpful supplement to traditional recovery practices.
So what are those traditional recovery practices that can work alongside a hot new “cure” such as hormone therapy? For one thing there is inpatient treatment and the typical 28 day program that can help the struggling addict or alcoholic to dry out. Second there is counseling and therapy with substance abuse therapists. Third there is the 12 step program and other support groups that are similar to AA and NA.
And then there is the long term strategy of personal growth and holistic health which is necessary for the addict or alcoholic to remain sober in the long run. Without this emphasis on positive changes in the long run, an addict or alcoholic is likely to slip up at some point.
In other words, quick fixes and whatever hot new “cure” are generally not enough to overcome the lifetime threat of relapse. You don’t just go to rehab and get cured for life, instead, you have to maintain sobriety each and every day…..forever. That means making a lifetime commitment to personal growth and positive action.
In order to truly do well in recovery you need to realize that every situation that you face in life gives you a simple choice: You can either seek to distract yourself from the problem at hand, or you can attempt to face the problem at hand and learn from it. You can either avoid the problem or you can face it head on and confront it.
The solution, much as we hate to admit it, is to face everything. Face your problems head on and you sacrifice some short term pleasure in order to reduce your long term discomfort.
Now that probably sounds a bit tricky so let’s break it down even further.
As you go through your recovery, and indeed, as anyone goes through life itself, you are going to encounter certain problems. This is just part of a life; random problems pop up from time to time and you are forced to either confront that problem and find a solution, or you have to live with that problem and attempt to distract yourself from the consequences of it.
As addicts and alcoholics, we tend to choose the distraction path. Every time a problem pops up, if it is too difficult to solve it quickly, we tend to prefer the “head in the sand” method of dealing with it. Or we jump on Facebook or distract ourselves with Netflix or television or even reading fiction. There are a thousand other forms of distraction as well, from drugs and alcohol to sex and gambling to playing games on our phone. Anything can become a distraction if it helps us to avoid looking at ourselves and being honest.
The real skill in recovery, whether you supplement it with hormone therapy, MAT, or some other magic wand solution, is that you need to learn to face your problems each and every day and seek real solutions. Every time that you choose a distraction you are basically saying “I would rather deal with some pain later instead of confronting this now.”
Make a commitment to yourself that you are going to face your problems during early recovery, that you are going to ask for help and learn how to take positive action so that you can move forward in life. The nice thing about solving problems in recovery is that you only have to do it once–then you will know how to conquer that specific life issue in the future, and it no longer really becomes a problem. Contrast this with the way that we live during addiction, when every solution for us is merely to distract ourselves from our real problems, and thus we never really solve anything at all, and are doomed to keep fighting the same battles over and over again, while casting blame in the same directions.
In addiction we live in denial, running from our problems, and blaming all of our struggles on factors outside of ourselves.
In recovery, we make the assumption that everything is our own responsibility, and then we try to act accordingly. I say “try” because all of us can get overwhelmed or discouraged at times, but we just have to get back to a positive space and try to make good choices again in our recovery journey.
Can hormone therapy help with this? We’ll have to wait and see.