Long Term Sobriety:
Why Medication-Assisted Treatment Isn't the Answer

It can happen that an individual will look at a drug-addicted loved one and wonder why they continue to apparently purposefully harm their health, relationships and life through drug use. This can even be the source of great frustration, as many individuals will implore their loved one to “just quit” and cannot understand why they wouldn’t want to.

What these individuals fail to understand is that most drug addicts are actually desperate for sobriety, but they honestly feel like it is entirely unobtainable. “Just quitting” isn’t actually possible for them, and in order to achieve long-term sobriety, they will need a thorough rehab that allows them to completely disconnect from all drug use—even medications.

Understanding Addiction

In order to understand the path to full and lasting recovery from drug addiction, one must first understand the dynamics of addiction itself.

Addiction obviously begins with a single instance of deliberate drug use. The individual’s specific reason for this drug use can vary widely depending on circumstances in their life—they could be suffering from a physical or mental health condition for which a medical health professional recommends they take medication, they could be trying to fit in with their drug-using peers, they could be under the impression that drugs will help them in some way, they could have encountered some problem in their life that they feel unwilling or unable to address and resolve, or something else could be occurring. Whatever the reason, the individual’s initial drug use leads them to believe that drugs are helpful to them in some way and so should continue to be taken.

Since drugs interrupt the normal functioning patterns of the human body, the body tries to cope with their presence by learning to tolerate them, and not react to them. However, it is the body's reaction to drugs that results in the desirable effects the user is taking them for, so tolerance is often “handled” by increasing one’s dose or switching to more powerful drugs. Eventually, the body learns that to cope with the presence of drugs, it must include them in their normal functioning patterns.

This means it grows to rely or depend upon drugs, and the individual will actually be driven by strong cravings and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms to maintain a certain level of drugs in their system at all times. They become addicted—compulsively continuing to use these substances despite their damaging effect on the individual’s health, relationships, and life. It is not unusual for him to feel, with absolute certainty, that he literally cannot survive without drugs.

Overcoming Addiction Permanently

In order to permanently overcome drug addiction, an individual must first decide that they need and want to make a change, and then they have to walk the full path to recovery.

This includes changing how they deal with stress, who they allow into their life, what they do in their free time, how they think about self and much more. They will need to take an honest and thorough look at every single physical, mental and emotional cause for their drug use, and determine exactly what they can do to take responsibility for their past actions and prevent a return to drug use in the future. They will also need to consider and address all the effects of their drug use, both to self and others, and repair the damages done.

Needless to say, this is neither a fast nor easy journey. However, it is absolutely necessary in order to help the individual build the strong foundation they will need for a healthy, happier and more productive future. This means that any shortcuts taken may seem convenient at the time, but will only lead to trouble in the long run. Medication-assisted treatment is just such a shortcut.

Medication-assisted treatment is a method of drug addiction treatment wherein an individual is essentially weaned off their drug of choice with an appropriate medication alternative. Medications used in this way are designed to help reduce the individual's drug cravings, and perhaps even make it uncomfortable for them to relapse back into drug use. However, there is one vital point that should not be overlooked: medications are themselves drugs, and are once again being used as a solution for some problem the individual has encountered in their life.

One could argue that turning to drugs as a solution is the reason the individual started on the path that eventually lead to their addiction problems, so in order to resolve these problems they need to change their way of thinking and find new, workable, drug-free solutions. Furthermore, one cannot ignore the fact that even doctor-recommended medications can lead to abuse, tolerance, dependence and addiction issues.

In some cases, individuals who are given medication-assisted treatment for their drug addiction problems are then unable to disconnect from the use of these medications. This means that they didn't actually achieve sobriety from drug use, they simply traded one drug dependence for another.

As difficult as full and lasting sobriety may be for the individual to achieve, it is also very satisfying. The individual has not only addressed all the causes and effects of their drug use and obtained the life skills and tools they need in order to move forward into a healthy, happy, and productive future, but they know with absolute certain that they don't need drugs, and they certainly don't want them.

Narconon—50 Years of Saving Lives from Drugs

The Narconon (meaning “no narcotics”) drug and alcohol rehabilitation program is open to all who desire to end their addiction and lead productive, drug-free lives.

The Narconon program not only addresses the debilitating effects of drug abuse on the mind and body, but also resolves why a person turned to drugs in the first place. As a result, tens of thousands have graduated from the Narconon program to go on to live new lives free from drug use.

Find out about the Narconon program.

AUTHOR

Josh

Executive Director for Narconon Freedom Center located in Michigan.

NARCONON FREEDOM CENTER

DRUG EDUCATION AND REHABILITATION