Every so often I read about a possible new vaccine for some form of addiction. The latest is a successful trial — in rats — of a meth vaccine. Leaving aside the fact that rats and humans are both millions of generations from our common ancestor of 160 million years ago, and that there is no reason to assume that things that work on them will work on us (only about 1 in 1000 drugs do), I have other reservations.
First of all, let me say that I totally agree that anything that will reduce the craving for drugs or the pursuit of addictive behavior has got to be a plus. My worry is that remedies such as meth vaccine will be touted by some as a cure-all, and I don’t think that will ever be the case. Personally, I know that I wasn’t right for years after I got clean and sober. A variety of changes in my physical and emotional condition were necessary, along with a readjustment to society, before I was back to normal (whatever that is).
It is said that if you sober up a horse thief, you end up with a more efficient horse thief.
There is nothing intrinsic in the fact of getting clean and sober that makes us able to again function in our lives, family or society. We first have to unlearn the ways of thinking that developed due to our addiction(s). Additionally, and particularly in the case of those who began using as preteens or teens, there will always be brain development issues to deal with and try to overcome, along with the need to learn to live in a world of sober people with different goals and different ways of approaching them.
That’s why we have programs of recovery.
Even those of us who came to addiction later in life, when we had already developed some life skills, have a lot of catching up to do. My using affected my ways of thinking about the world, the ways I related to other people, and myriad other parts of my life. In many of those, the changes became habits that I needed to set aside in sobriety.
Put simply, if I’d been able to take a pill or a shot and walk away, I’d still be pretty-much the a**hole I was when I was active in my addictions. I needed a program. I still need reality checks from time to time, even after 20-plus years.
This, BTW, is part of my objection to methadone and Suboxone maintenance: no remedial treatment. On the program side, I have a problem with the recovery snobs who refuse to accept folks on maintenance in the rooms (not, thankfully, all folks in all programs). How else are they going to learn about alternatives? But I digress…
I applaud the researchers for their concern, their advances in understanding addiction and how it affects us physically, and their dedication to improving the overall knowledge in the field. But I don’t think there will be an instant cure for addiction until they are able to put us in a tank, hook us up, and totally reprogram our brains and bodies.
And I sincerely hope that time never comes, for a lot of reasons.