The drug manufacturing industry has produced a variety of drugs which, to all intents and purposes, alleviate the cravings of addicts.
Apart from the fact that the long term effects of the most recent drugs are yet to emerge, it is questionable whether or not any of these drugs will satisfy the psychological and emotional cravings of addicts for the experience of the high or the oblivion that many addicts consciously or unconsciously seek.
In the interim Carl Jung’s prescient comments are worth recalling:
Science has no answer to this problem, psychotherapy alone is useless, what is required is a spiritual experience (Jung, Carl G. Letters to Bill ‘W’, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. 1961 Jan)
The terms ‘spiritual experience’ and ‘spiritual awakening’ are referred to in the simple programme of recovery offered by 12 step fellowships which millions of men and women of differing cultures, nationalities, and beliefs throughout the world, whether they be Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, agnostic, or atheists, have found to be a lasting solution to their problem.
It is defined as a personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from addiction: a change that appears to have different and varying manifestations.
Many of the experiences appear to be educational rather than religious, inasmuch as they occur or develop, sometimes slowly, over a non-specific period of time.
What is apparent from observation of those who have found this ultimate to be the ultimate form of harm reduction is a sweeping and far-reaching alteration in their reaction to life and the problems of living, which in turn permits them to live a healthy, productive, and satisfying life, alcohol and drug free.
The 12-Step programmes appear to have borrowed extensively from medicine, psychiatry, and religion. It is also noted that the steps are based on the collective experiences of the first 100 sober members of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
12 step fellowships have been the subject of praise and criticism. On balance, the overall picture is favourable.
However, researchers who have concluded that addicts who attend meetings regularly, together with appropriate interventions for those with co-morbidity issues, have a greater chance of a lasting recovery than those who do not and confess to being unable to identify any ‘scientific’ reasons for their undoubted success.
This author, who has made a close perusal of the 12 steps, noted that unlike most programmes, it has no dates or specified period of time in which the programme is to be completed, thus members are free to choose when or to what extent they engage with the individual steps.
Readers who are familiar with the Stages of Change model of behaviour change will be aware that the framework and the progression through each stage, likewise, have no time limitations imposed.
Also of interest is the fact that the processes that members undergo as they progress through the steps bear a remarkable similarity to those found in the various stages of the Stages of Change model; therefore, each of the steps is not only compatible with the model, which also has withstood considerable critical examination, it fits very elegantly into it.
This author has found that correlation to be of considerable help in bringing about change in many of his clients, among whom are a considerable number of alcoholics and addicts who had been judged by others as ‘not ready’. Somehow, they appear to have ‘become ready’ through what could be described as the most effective form of harm reduction – 12-Step Fellowships.
Open access; Is It Harm Reduction-or Harm Continuation? (2007) The Journal of Global Drug Policy and Practice, VOLUME 1, ISSUE 2, Peter O’Loughlin; Principal, The Eden Lodge Practice, Beckenham, UK.