Saturday, January 9, 2016


From my layperson's perspective, there doesn't appear to be a lot of medical research into addiction. I suppose it is a little bit like malaria.  It's not news because it happens all the time.  News is reporting what's new or different, or what's changed.

I am heartened to hear of new medication options that might help people struggling with addiction.  (This is link to the radiolab episode "The Fix").

I remember when SSRIs were becoming more mainstream in the early 90s.  It's amazing how much difference medication can make.

Many friends (including me) were anti-medication.

And there are good reasons for the skepticism.  The psychiatric community historically has discriminated against women (if not people of color).  And that's completely ignoring the treatment of the LGBT community until quite recently.

But I also know many people who have benefited from the medications (including me).  For me, I think it's pretty obvious.  Just like my body not making enough thyroid hormone, my brain doesn't appear to handle serotonin appropriately.  For me, it's been an simple equation - I take thyroid medication, and my symptoms decrease.

So I agree with the notes in the podcast that medication radically changed how people viewed mental illness and talk therapy.

With that said, I still see a tremendous amount of value in talk therapy (i.e. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).  Medication can work wonders, but there are still thought patterns that may need to be examined.  There are relationship skills that need to be learned (or strengthened).  CBT can help a person develop boundary setting and healing from trauma that cannot happen just through taking a pill. And it doesn't have to be a life sentence.  Medication may be needed for a short amount of time for getting through something (like death or a divorce), but can also be decreased over time.

So medication for addiction may be incredibly helpful for those struggling with addiction.  But in the end, there may also be a great deal of value in examining the underlying issues of addiction.  How does a person deal with the uncomfortable feelings that led to the addiction in the first place?  How does one interact socially when all social interactions involved a substance?

It's incredibly complex, and I'm not even scratching the surface of the issue's complexity.

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