There is no chemical solution to a spiritual problem?

We are fighting a war…not just against the heroin epidemic and addiction, but against stigma and false dogma related to addiction and treatment modalities.  And it’s not just people who never suffered from addiction either.  These false stigmas and stereotypes exist in the 21st century today within the recovery community.  Frankly, if I was given a dollar for every time I heard “there is no chemical solution to a spiritual problem” or “I believe in complete abstinence”, I’d honestly be a wealthy man. But these phrases are literal cliché’s right out of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous literature. Doesn’t anyone think for themselves anymore?

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Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™ rejects the stigma and false dogma that medicine assisted treatment can’t treat the disease of addiction and thus “there is no chemical solution to a spiritual problem” is false and misleading in many ways.

Alcoholics Anonymous Clichés and the History / Origin of Addiction Related Stigma

The 12 Step Program sponsored by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) was established almost a century ago.  To be precise, the “Big Book” was written in 1939, long before addiction was declared a disease and before medicine assisted treatment (MAT) was widespread. AA considered addiction a spiritual problem for which they propose a spiritual solution. See “Stop the Stigma – Why is the 12 Step Program Anti-Medicine Assisted Treatment?

Now there is no doubt that what led up to someone using heroin, drugs or alcohol in the first place is psychological and/or spiritual. And working to address these underlying issues is an important part of therapy. But what about the physical and chemical problem of addiction?

While AA and NA may attempt to do so, addiction can’t be contained neatly in a cardboard box with a linear definition. Addiction is as much physical as it is psychological or spiritual and it is as much chemical as it is behavioral. Addiction is a disease and needs to be looked at separately from the action of using drugs. See “Addiction Vs. Using Drugs: Why Addicts Can’t Just Stop Using Heroin“.

How Addiction Works: How One Becomes a Heroin Addict

how addiction worksIn a nutshell, here is now addiction works. Lets look at the fictitious “Joe Schmidt” as an example.

Joe Schmidt is 17 years old and is just “existing” rather than “living” life. He is an anxious person and has a hard time making friends. Generally speaking, he is unhappy, lonely and wishes he had more friends. The one close friend he has (John) explains to him how heroin will “loosen him up” and enable him to feel better about himself and be more social. Joe knows heroin is bad but really wishes he could make more friends and fit in with the popular kids. Joe decides to try heroin. 

Joe has a genetic predisposition to addiction, it runs in his family.  His father is an alcoholic and his uncle Eddy is a compulsive gambler.  When Joe tries heroin, he feels amazing.  He wonders where heroin has been all his life and in his assessment heroin is the answer to ALL problems.  Inside Joe’s body, a chemical reaction in the brain took place causing the onset of addiction to heroin.  Joe intended to try heroin just one time but is now making excuses to continue using it.  He convinces himself that he has it under control and that he would never become addicted.  But Joe is already addicted.

Now Joe’s friend John does not have a genetic predisposition to addiction.  He enjoyed using heroin with Joe that one night and despite the pleasant feelings it gave him, he realizes that the consequences of continued use of heroin far outweigh the benefits.  So John decides not to use heroin again.  But not Joe, Joe is chemically hooked. 

Joe stops hanging out with John and only hangs out with his new heroin using friends.  He soon “needs” more and more to experience the same feeling of euphoria and before too long he is jobless, broke and only uses heroin to prevent himself from getting violently sick.  But he still uses, because he is hooked.  Joe soon realizes that he wants to stop but fears the violently ill feeling that withdrawal symptoms create.  Joe would do anything to quit except go through withdrawal!

Many of us can probably relate to the above example.  Now based on the above, is addiction a spiritual problem?  Is it is a physical problem?  Is it psychological?  Is it chemical?  The answer to all of these…is yes!

Why Medicine Assisted Treatment (MAT) Like Suboxone, Methadone and Naltrexone Work

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Joe has a disease and diseases are often treated with medicine.  Suboxone, Methadone and Naltrexone are legitimate medications that help reduce cravings and minimize or even eliminate withdrawal symptoms.  Medicine Assisted Treatment (MAT) helps to treat the “physical” problem of addiction.  Counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, the 12 step program, addiction replacement therapy, etc. can all help with the psychological / spiritual problem of addiction.

Addiction is treatable, not curable.  Thus, the memories associated with heroin addiction will linger on and remain.  Medicine Assisted Treatment coupled with counseling modalities and time can heal many of the wounds.  But much like losing a loved one, recovering addicts must grieve the loss of heroin, drugs or alcohol which will help to sever the connection between the brain and the drug.

Isn’t MAT Just Trading One Drug for Another?

harm reductionNo, medicine assisted treatment works on 2 principles: Drug Replacement Therapy and Harm Reduction.  Methadone, Suboxone and Naltrexone are regulated, prescribed and sometimes administered by a medical professional and aren’t mixed with other toxic chemicals like heroin.  These medicines have been approved to treat heroin and opiate addiction by well respected medical associations and communities such as the American Medical Association (AMA) and SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).  See “NA, SAMHSA and KTHEN Official Stance on Medicine Assisted Treatments (MATs)” for more information.

Conclusion

There are multiple treatment modalities available to treat heroin, opiate, drug and alcohol addiction.  What works for some may not work for another.  No program contains a 100% success rate and an individual’s personal commitment to recovery has a lot to do with the success rate.  Each program contains its own list of advantages and disadvantages.  Instead of arguing which is better, why not celebrate that there are a multitude of treatment options available in the 21st century.  This was simply not the case in 1939 when Alcoholics Anonymous published the “Big Book”.  So instead of criticizing people for their chosen path to recovery, we should be celebrating with them, even if their path is different than ours.

Resources

I highly suggest reading the article at https://donewithaa.wordpress.com/2009/03/30/there-is-no-chemical-solution-to-a-spiritual-problem/ which we believe also provides excellent content addressing this very issue.

Written and Published By,

William – Publisher and Founder of Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™
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3 thoughts on “There is no chemical solution to a spiritual problem?

  1. Do you know how many people in methadone maintenance refuse to go to AA/NA because to go they have to lie about being on methadone? I’ve heard countless stories about people getting treated like monsters the second they say “I have ten years clean, thanks to methadone.” The whole meeting will shun them from that point on. Some people need the consistency that AA/NA can provide but are too afraid of the judgement they’ll receive if they go in with openness and honesty. So they just don’t bother. And I think that’s really a shame, and it’s something that needs to be addressed.

    • You’re right and frankly, that’s why I’ve never personally gone more than a few times. I’m the kind of person who feels that authenticity (being who you) and transparency (being honest and open about what you do) are key ingredients to recovery. If I am somewhere that I feel I can’t be honest about myself, let alone my recovery, than that particular person, place or thing keeps me stagnant in my growth as long as I’m around it or them. In my opinion, any recovery meeting should enable you to be open and honest for it to be effective. AA and NA are great, but they aren’t for everyone, just like medicine assisted treatment is great but isn’t for everyone.

      Thanks for sharing,

      William – Publisher

  2. Pingback: Why AA Members Believe the 12 Step Program is the Only Way - Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide

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