Can Neuroscience work hand in hand with the 12 step model?

Recently I read an interview between Michael Short from the Age Newspaper and Professor Jon Currie who specialises in the neurobiological treatment of addiction (for the full transcript see )
In the interview Currie said,

“The best definition I know of addiction is that it is a brain disease of compulsive seeking and using, which causes behavioural consequences and occurs in a social context. That tells us that there are three main pillars for treatment. We should be looking at the behaviour, the social context, and most importantly we should also be looking at the brain. We have very, very tremendous concentration on the social context and on putting social supports in place. We know all about that.

We have a lot of behavioural treatment to try and prevent drug-seeking behaviour, to look at the behaviours that go around it. But what we have is a serious failure in this country in the use of brain treatment. And that is usually pharmacological, medical treatment for supporting and treating patients with addiction. This applies to all addictions, including alcohol, illicit drugs, prescribed pain killers and benzodiazepine medications, and behavioural addictions such as gambling and obesity with food addiction.”

Later in the interview Currie went onto to say,
“We face the situation at the moment where so much treatment is revolving-door. People go into relatively high-cost, intensive treatments – it may be residential rehabilitation or it may be the detoxification units or withdrawal units.
They emerge from those a week or a month or six months later with very little change in brain function and often relapse. While it is very possible that some people do well with that, the majority of people do struggle when they come out to live normal lives because the brain function has not really been addressed.”

Currie is absolutely right when he identifies the “revolving door” many find themselves in after a successful Detox/Rehab. The bridge from Detox and Rehab back into normal life for a high percentage of those in early recovery is a “Bridge too Far.”

It is at this precise point in the client’s recovery the 12 Step model has a serious role to play.

Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous offer the patient the opportunity to stay connected to their recovery, meet with others who are on a similar journey and provide the critical support they need. Meetings, home groups, telephone numbers and sponsors give the newcomer in recovery the opportunity to reach out to a friendly ear, ask a simple question or just feel like they are not alone.

The rooms of AA and NA can play a vital role in conjunction with Neuroscience to dramatically reduce the likelihood of relapse. All it requires is for the specialists in the field to work with each other and identify the value of collaboratively seeking the best solution for their client when it comes to transitioning them back into “normal life.”


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