12-step programs do help break addictions

Dr. Gordon Hyde
Dr. Gordon Hyde

In the Sept. 4 Herald Leader, Dr. Rae Brown of the University of Kentucky beautifully describes the inadequate treatment of the current opioid epidemic in Kentucky. I agree completely that there is “no safe opioid dose, no safe opioid agent and no safe patient.”

However, he makes some very strong statements like “medical treatment is the only treatment demonstrated to be effective,” implying that there are no others, and that medical manipulation with other addicting substances is the best treatment.

There are a few long-term studies suggesting medical treatment may be helpful, just like there are few long-term studies documenting that 12-step programs work. (Because 12-step programs are anonymous, there will never be comparative studies).

He also infers that the 12-step programs are religious, demonstrating his misunderstanding of what the 12 steps propose and how they work to treat addictions. The only faith one suffering with opioid addiction has to have is that, “he or she is not God” which becomes pretty obvious to most of them when they look at the circumstances they are in with the horrible consequences of their illness.

The program leads one to change his or her behavior in positive ways without drugs, and they lose their obsession with drugs.

Results from Outcome Surveys have been conducted by the University of Kentucky’s Center for Drug and Alcohol Research for many years. Their survey results can be found at http://cdar.uky.edu/.

These studies reflect the very encouraging results that 12-step approaches to long-term opiate addiction are having a positive effect on recovery from addiction without the use of opiate-based, medication-assisted treatment.

We need new and effective approaches in addition to medical management. But to state that any other method of management (other than medical management alone) is ineffective is pure heresy.

Most of the more than 300 AA/NA and other 12-step meetings in Lexington a week today are filled with young recovering opioid addicts who would be happy to show you how they failed all systems in Kentucky, including prison, medical management, etc. , before finding healthy recovery without drugs.

What a joy it is to see these patients recovering — mostly all employed, raising families and appreciating the joy of living — rather than being zonked by another drug.

I do strongly agree with Brown’s concluding statement: “We can all do a better job.”

Dr. Gordon Hyde, University of Kentucky’s emeritus professor of surgery, is past executive director of International Doctors In Alcoholics Anonymous.