The Battle of Drug-based Drug Abuse Assistance

Last Updated: Sep 20th 2019

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

For a long time, there has been a stigma attached to illicit drug use. Many organizations, such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) maintain that for someone to be ‘clean’, they cannot take any drugs, even medications, unlike south Florida drug rehab. However, these groups formed nearly 100 years ago, before the medical and psychological communities had much understanding about what later became termed Substance Use Disorder (SUD).

In these groups and others like them that base their treatment methods on the framework that has been administered for over a century, the baseline of being ‘sober’ is absolute; if an alcoholic participates, for instance, in a church’s communion ceremony where a tiny thimble of wine is given for the use in the religious ceremony, that person is considered to have failed, even if that is all they ingest and only in the context of the tradition.

It is this mindset of the old guard that has long reaching consequences which are impeding more effective and well researched treatment options. One of these newer treatments actually involves what is called Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT). Currently, many news headlines that are reporting on the nation’s increasing opioid use, which largely has been contributed to by prescription drug addictions to medications like oxycontin, have also been reporting on MATs such as naloxone, which when administered properly, can prevent overdose but also can increase the effectiveness of behavioral therapy.

It’s often misunderstood how these drugs actually work. When being an absolutist in the AA and NA camps, taking any drug for a prolonged period of time is considered an addiction. The problem with this diagnosis is that neither AA nor NA actually administer any kind of medical and psychological treatment based on research and instead rely on faith-based treatment measures which emphasize spirituality to overcome substance use disorders. The stigma that has resulted, helped in no small part by the War On Drugs that has been ongoing since 1971, promotes and absolutism to sobriety which doesn’t take into effect what symptoms are being treated, exactly.

Substance use disorder, or addictions, are often categorized as life threatening and inhibit normal functioning in day to day life. For instance, back to the example of the patient who is deemed a failure for participating in communion, that single sip does not inhibit in any way their day to day functioning and if it doesn’t result in a return to abusing alcohol, then there actually is no failure to manage the addiction at all. With MATs, often times the drugs are taken over extensive period of time, giving the appearance of a new addiction, but if those drugs are allowing a person to remain productive in society and resist the substances that do lead to personal physical and psychological harm, then it is, indeed, actively treating the addiction itself.

It’s time to have an honest public discussion about what the real goals of addiction treatment should be and redefine the outdated and unresearched methodologies of a century old religious approach.

South Florida rehab centers utilize up to date modern treatment methods on patience seeking treatment for substance use disorders. Call 1st Step at (866) 971-5531 for treatment options include detox in Broward County.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Brittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is the Assistant Clinical Director at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.