For many years, a drug user who needed opiate addiction treatment didn’t have a whole lot of options. In fact, for the most part there were just two roads the painkiller or heroin addict could take toward recovery. If they lived in a large enough city, they could visit the methadone clinic seven days a week. Everybody else had little choice but to go the 12 step route.
And worse yet, these two types of opiate addiction treatment had a hard time working together. They were too suspicious of one another for that. The methadone folks tended to think that 12 step meetings were too religious, while the 12 steppers thought methadone violated the holy state of abstinence that had saved their lives.
It amounted to a feud between two approaches that should have been on the same side. It’s probably an oversimplification to say so, but this feud was based on the opposition between science and spirituality. The result was that both forms of opiate addiction treatment suffered and that opiate users continued to go to prison or die.
Faith, Science, and Synthesis
Fortunately, this false opposition has started to melt away, along with the misguided binary that’s always stood at its root. Addicts and experts are learning that science and spirituality can work together in the treatment of opiate addiction. This is especially true now, with the medical profession actively engaging in the science side of recovery and spiritual types getting more open to what they can do to help.
Culturally speaking, it might have began when people started seeing that prescription painkillers were destroying as many lives as heroin. Once this happened, it became more difficult to pretend the opiate problem was reserved for hustlers and junkies. It didn’t take long for the will and the funding to appear for medical treatment for opiate addiction, for options beyond methadone and the problems inherent to it.
Now the suffering user has options for different kinds of opiate addiction treatment. They can still go the 12 step route and change themselves from the heart outward, but they can also accept help from drugs like Suboxone or Vivitrol to rewire their chemistry and suppress cravings. We’ve learned that opiate addiction treatment sometimes needs to fix brain chemistry in ways that 12 step programs alone can’t.
And as human beings and once suffering addicts, it’s incumbent upon us to open our minds and support whatever mode helps to slow down the incarceration rate and the death toll. Otherwise, we’re just part of the problem.