A Cure for Addiction?
Is Addiction Curable? Addiction isn’t curable – but it is treatable and it can be put into remission. This fact brings into debate the semantics of whether or not there is a cure for addiction. The truth is that those on both sides of the argument are probably correct but they just hold different definitions of the word “cure.”
So what is the definition of a cure?
According to the medical community, “cure” means:
- To heal, to make well, to restore to permanent good health. Cures are easy to claim and, all too often, difficult to confirm.
- A time without recurrence of a disease so that the risk of recurrence is small, as in the 5-year cure rate of malignant melanoma.
- Particularly in the past, a course of treatment. For example, “take a cure at a spa.”
According to Webster’s Fourth Edition, “cure” means:
- A healing or being healed; restoration to health or a sound condition.
- A medicine or treatment for restoring health; remedy.
- A system, method, or course of treating a disease, ailment, etc.
- From both these definitions it becomes evident as to why certain drug rehabilitation programs claim to have the “cure for addiction.”
But if you look more closely at the definitions of the word cure and if you look even more closely at the nature of addiction – you begin to see why it might be considered a bit lofty to claim to have a cure for addiction.
Why Claiming to Have the Cure is Deceptive
First, from a purely definitional standpoint perhaps a cure for addiction takes place while in the drug treatment center – but what about when the treatment that is offered is discontinued, or refused? Most programs attempt to keep people abstinent while in treatment but they also offer suggestions for future actions that must be implemented in order to prevent relapse. (In other words, a recurrence of the addictive process.) If the person does not follow these recommendations it is highly likely, if not inevitable that they will relapse and experience a recurrence of their addiction. So have they really been given a cure for addiction? If the person experiencing an addiction has to take future daily actions to prevent a relapse, i.e., attend individual therapy, attend 12-step meetings, and not hang out with practicing addicts, etc…have they really received a cure for addiction if complying or not complying with certain suggestions once they leave the center will result in a relapse? Probably not… certainly this is definitely not the description of a “treatment that permanently restores health.”
How Does Treatment Help?
Treatment in the short term does restore health but there are still future parameters that must be implemented to maintain that health…the cure in other words will only become a reality if a daily regiment of responses are implemented to continually treat the addiction condition. Since the requirement for the permanent removal of addiction is the ongoing, everyday adherence to certain actions…it seems a bit unrealistic to claim that 30-90 days of treatment can cure an addiction.
What is scary about using the term “cure” when offering treatment for addiction is that it sets people with addictions up to think that after their treatment the work they need to do is concluded. People go into treatment thinking that the treatment itself is enough when everyone really knows this is not the case. So again, we ask you is addiction curable?
Facts about Addiction and Treatment
Think about this for a second – in California, approximately 64% of the individuals who are incarcerated received a judicial punishment correlated to being involved with the influence of alcohol and/or drugs when they committed their crime – and of all these individuals, most will commit another crime or a probation/parole violation (Correlated to alcohol and/or drugs) within 3 months of their term of incarceration concluding. If removal from alcohol and drugs were enough to cure their addiction, why do so many people re-offend?
They re-offend because removal from alcohol and drugs is not enough. Treatment by itself cannot cure addiction permanently, only ongoing self-initiated actions after the initial treatment, if implemented on a daily basis will permanently remove addiction and addictive characteristics. Think about it…if treatment was really able to provide a cure to addiction – wouldn’t the whole world be applying it?
What we know about addiction is that it is both physical and psychological. Both components have to be treated in order to achieve both immediate abstinence and permanent abstinence. But the truth is that the permanent abstinence component requires ongoing positive actions of one sort or another. Without addressing the psychological component of addiction with continuity of treatment-like actions statistics show that most people will relapse and experience a recurrence of addiction.
So in summary is addiction curable? – addiction is not curable, addiction can be completely placed in remission – but only with ongoing preventative efforts. Treatment by itself can create the foundations of a “cure” but is not the cure itself.