the content can be controversial. It is safer for me to write about recovery through the 12 Steps since one’s experiences can seldom be argued. But recently I have been bothered by certain news reports and advertisements that concern themselves with recovery particularly from alcoholism. (I’ll cover the ads in a different article.)
There was a report recently about the FDA’s approval of a new drug, Vivitrol, to treat alcoholism. I decided to get information about it so that I could share it with all of you and also arrest my own concerns as to how it worked.
Vivitrol is the first and only injectable drug and is given once per month by a health care provider. When the drug was tested it was given to those who could abstain from drinking and were not drinking when starting treatment. The patients selected in the study had about 20 days per month of heavy drinking which was five or more drinks per day for men and four or more drinks per day for women. The longer a person was abstained from drinking prior to the injection, the better they did. They were significantly more likely to remain abstinent and if they did not abstain, drank less.
Here’s how it works or here is how the scientists “think” it works. “The medication works by binding opioid receptors in the brain. We don’t know exactly how opioid receptors are involved in alcohol dependence, but there’s a very good preclinical data that indicate that medications that bind to these receptors and block them reduce drinking and remove the incentive to drink.” (Michael Bohn, MD).
The bottom line is that it works if you abstain from alcohol but it doesn’t actually keep you from drinking altogether. So I guess out of the 18 million people in the U.S. today who are dependent upon alcohol or abuse alcohol, they can choose if they want to be 100% sober or just drink a little. I don’t believe there is any data yet that would tell us if those who are on Vivitrol and drink “a little” are likely to once again become full-fledged alcoholics or because of this drug they become “normal” drinkers.
Here, my friends, is the good news to all of this. Most experts agree that for optimum recovery this new drug should be combined with a 12 Step Program (AA). What the experts can’t understand though is why AA works better than anything else. They understand the core of the program but they can’t explain why it works. The “hint” they have is that “alcoholics who got support from AA members were three times more likely to stay sober as those who got no support. Alcoholics who got similar support from people outside of AA were no more likely to stay sober than those who got no support.” (Lee Ann Kaskutas, DrPH, Alcohol Research Group, Berkeley, CA).
“We still have a poor understanding of what AA-exposed individuals actually do and how prescribed AA-related practices may mobilize and sustain behavior change.” (J. Scott Tonigan, PhD, University of New Mexico)
The experts are not so expert when it comes to AA and how and why it works. We know how it works because the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous tells us in Chapter Five “How It Works”. We in recovery have found the solution to our alcoholism but not through self-help, mental health professionals, or physicians. They may have guided us toward the road to recovery but only after taking Step One, a commitment to working all of the steps with a sponsor, going to meetings, and helping others can we feel certain we are recovering.
Recovery is a life-long process. We know that alcohol is cunning, baffling and powerful so to believe that we are “recovered” and can drink again, is to give in to the enemy. We also have learned a new way of life; something that normal drinkers or non-addicts might never have an opportunity to learn. AA is not about data, scientific facts, or statistics. AA concerns itself with the things we can’t see on paper; the things we can’t study; the intangibles. Let the “experts” try to figure us out. My guess is that they never will!
Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.
Note: For those of you who might be interested in this drug or know someone who might be, I am not suggesting it is not a valid avenue to help stop drinking. What I am suggesting is that drugs such as Vivitrol have a place in recovery but I am of the opinion that “real” recovery (alcohol is but a symptom) results when we enter and follow a 12 Step Program.
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