New Methods Offer Real Hope For Curing Alcohol Addiction

If you’ve never loved someone with an addiction problem this article may not make any sense. If you’ve loved someone with an illness for which there is no cure it will. That is because up until now there has been no potentially definitive cure for alcohol addiction. Whilst many have become sober through the traditional routes of AA and rehab, a much greater number have not.

There are moments in history when we can change things and make things a better place. We are at that moment in history with alcohol addiction. For those of you out there who love someone who is addicted to alcohol there is now real hope. But things have to change before we can declare victory and before change can happen there needs to be some education about the causes and the effects of alcohol addiction – not just amongst lay people but those in the medical and addiction professions.

The first and most important point to make is: we’ve never met an addict who wilfully set out to become addicted. Their addiction is almost always masking a pre-existing mental health disorder which in many cases is acute anxiety which has never been properly diagnosed or treated.

Anxiety can have physical affects – panic attacks are a common problem; emotional affects – with feelings of apprehension and dread very common; cognitive affects – fear of suspected dangers like dying and behavioural affects like withdrawing from situations where unpleasant effects of anxiety have been experienced in the past. If you love someone with anxiety they will no doubt look very normal and behave quite normally. But there may be small signs that give you a clue like sweaty palms, anxiety about social situations, disturbed sleep patterns, nail biting and foot tapping.

Whilst these are relatively minor external symptoms, the anxiety they feel will not be minor and their anxiety will start to increasingly impinge upon and affect their lives. That explains why when someone with acute anxiety first tastes alcohol they will already be at risk of addiction because the drug will hit their brain and make them feel normal probably for the first time in their lives. You hear that over and over again in AA meetings and rehab in answer to the question why do you drink? Answer: because it makes me feel normal.

And so the connection with the brain chemistry is made from that very first drink and someone with acute anxiety who experiences this feeling of euphoria will continue to take alcohol in increasingly large doses and so start the journey into dependency and then full-blown addiction.

This will not only spell future disaster for the addict unless they turn it round, it will also lead to broken relationships and devastation within families of addicts as they try to help in vain.

Up until now if you loved an alcoholic the only “treatment” you may have heard about is AA or rehab. In fact many who love an alcohol addict have no real knowledge or information about what to do and may not even understand the options until their loved one eventually ends up needing emergency treatment to help with physical withdrawals or has an accident.

So what about the drinker. What have been your best hopes for recovery historically?

Alcoholics Anonymous is probably the most famous. It is an international organisation whose primary purpose is to help members stay sober and help others achieve sobriety using the 12 Steps which in summary is a process to help them accept they are powerless over alcohol and that a higher power than themselves (not necessarily God) will help them to achieve this. Interestingly, they avoid discussing the medical nature of alcohol addiction despite the fact that they will almost all be suffering from a primary mental health disorder.

AA was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr Bob Smith in the US who, as alcoholics, found that by supporting and talking to each other they could maintain their sobriety in a much easier way. Whilst it is an organisation which is credited with helping many alcoholics achieve and maintain sobriety there are high drop-out rates in the first year and relapse rates. It does not suit everyone. Despite this the medical and addiction professions have not moved much further forward with the fundamental diagnosis and treatment of alcohol addiction. Go to the most expensive rehab centres in the world and their methods will almost always certainly be based around the 12 Step Programme developed by the members of AA and with cognitive and other counselling services and attendance at AA will be the recommended post-care treatment.

These approaches have worked for some and are to be applauded but many of us have tried and paid a lot of money to find sobriety in this way and that is why new treatments such as those described in our book are exciting and particularly the discovery by French-American cardiologist Prof Ameisen – who became addicted to alcohol when self-medicating his own acute alcohol addiction – that a drug commonly prescribed for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) can cure alcohol addiction – if taken in the right way and to the right dose – by reducing the cravings and eventually making the patient indifferent to alcohol. As it is also a muscle relaxant it also helps to treat the underlying cause of the addiction which is in many cases acute anxiety.

Whilst the science behind this is not yet completely understood what we do know is that it is already having spectacular results. The problem here in the UK is that baclofen whilst available on prescription for MS is not yet available to alcohol addicts and, indeed, many of the medical trials that have been set up or are being set up are only going to use doses which so far have proved ineffectual in treating addiction.

We are calling on the Government and the medical establishment to take the opportunity to change history and the future for many addicts and the families who love them.

It feels to me like the treatments we use for addiction today are medieval. We must understand and treat the route cause of the mental health problems that cause addition and help those who are already addicted. Baclofen needs to have proper trials in the UK and be made available on prescription. If a new cheap, safe and widely available (these are the key characteristics of Baclofen) cancer drug had just been discovered and the Government and medical professions were taking time to do medical trials and not using the dose levels which research suggests are needed to treat the problem there would be a public outcry. That is why we are calling for change. Alcohol addiction happens to people who are already ill with mental health disorders such as acute anxiety and that is why they deserve and need as much help as someone terminal cancer or other life threatening diseases. We must move this treatment on, we must save lives on the grounds of basic humanity.


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