Monday, April 20, 2009

Anti-addiction pill? Buyers beware...

CNN posted a story at the end of last week about naltrexone, an anti-craving drug. Dr. Mark Willenbring had this quote: "There will be a 'Prozac moment', when primary care doctors start handling functional alcoholics."

Here's another quote, this the response from Hazelden's medical director: At Hazelden in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a small proportion of patients receive anti-addiction drugs, but medical director Dr. Kevin Clark says the traditional model -- based on intensive therapy and the 12 steps popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous -- is still best. "It is a disease of the brain, but it's a multifaceted disease. It has a spiritual component, a behavioral component to it," says Clark. "Our experience tells us that having the network of support and recovery is what really makes the difference."

I lean towards the Hazelden response- I am in recovery and I believe that simply taking medication without a sufficient support network would lead to an unhappy life. There's a difference between stopping drinking and actual recovery. Until we develop a medical treatment that can do something besides simply reducing craving, then we still need to work with addicts and alcoholics to find recovery through 12-step programs, therapy, and supportive rehabilitation centers. However, I do think this is huge medical progress- and I'm happy that we're making strides to find other solutions which may increase successful outcomes.

Here's a video about placing naltrexone under the skin of heroin addicts:

And here's something funny.

As always, find me on LinkedIn and Twitter. Take care.


  1. I completely agree with the notion that as of right now, there is simply no magic-cure for addiction. Naltrexone has been around for a while, if it truly offered the magic solution CNN proposed, the addiction-treatment community would be in the business of giving nothing but that pill to everyone.

    Without behavioral treatment, therapy, social-support, and other aspects of holistic treatment, the pill would do little but stunt cravings and drug-effects (for certain drugs only) until the patient would either stop taking it, or until they reverted back to old behaviors, perhaps with a substitute drug...

  2. The problem is, because of statements like the Hazelden one, clinics will continue to lag behind in using ALL treatment options rather than just the one "they still think works best" for addicts. You neglect to mention the hardline Betty Ford clinic and their outright REFUSAL to use meds while treating addicts.

    This borders on the inexcusable... the "cornering of the sobriety market" by 12 steppers unwilling to accept or even try something that, in concert with managed care and support groups like AA, could increase the success rate.