Since the beginning of time humans have dealt with addiction; whether it is to alcohol, laudanum, heroin, or the more recent prescription drugs such as Vicodin or Oxycontin. They have been led to look outside of themselves and rely on external help to overcome those addictions.
Drug rehabilitation as we know it today has evolved greatly over time. Although we may be dealing with same addictions as a century ago, the understanding and treatment of these addictions has changed dramatically. Prior to the 1930’s, drug addiction treatment was nearly non-existent. It consisted largely of confining the addict and disallowing them their drug of choice. Treatment of alcoholism, which was considered a mental disorder, failed miserably.
In 1935, however, new thoughts and treatments of addiction began to emerge. Dr. Bob Smith “Dr. Bob” and William “Bill” Wilson, both recovering alcoholics, found through their own personal experiences that support and spirituality were the keys to their recovery. This led them to found Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). AA uses a set of guidelines called the 12 Steps; which are based on the findings of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung and the principles of the Oxford Group, an Evangelical Christian organization. Through the support of fellow and former addicts and the acknowledgement of God or a higher power, addicts are encouraged to search deep within themselves and take recovery one day at a time. Although the group started out small, there are now over 100,000 AA groups nationwide.
In 1951, Bill’s wife Louis founded Al-Anon to provide support and education for the families and friends of alcoholics. The principles of AA have also inspired several other recovery groups such as Cocaine Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, and Narcotics Anonymous, which help individuals suffering from various forms drug abuse.
Today, many recovery and treatment centers use the 12 Step Program and the principles developed by Bill and “Dr. Bob” with much success. Science and research have brought us to the point of realizing that drug and alcohol addiction is not just a problem of self control; it’s a disease. Even though support groups have proven moderately successful in the past, research is hard to obtain and many believe that support and therapy are not enough to combat the chemical damage done to the brain through alcohol or drug abuse.
Despite its still highly controversial nature, some facilities and treatment centers have begun to use various methods of medication to help ease the pain of withdrawals and aid in recovery. Regardless of the type of treatment they receive, recovering addicts have a long road ahead of them to retrain the way they think and live. The key factor in any addiction recovery program is the individual. While the type of addiction and treatment are very important, the addicts’ response and willingness to change will be the greatest factor in their success.
Even though we have come a long way in understanding the roots of addiction, research is still being done to find new and better ways to treat it.