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Why psychological intervention will always be more powerful than using drugs to treat addiction

Despite the recent news that a potential new drug treatment could be used to treat the effects of cannabis addiction, Port of Call argues that psychological intervention will always be more powerful than any so-called wonder drugs to treat addiction.


Effects of cannabis addictionScientists at University College London are trialling the use of a cannabis extract to counteract addictions to weed. Cannabidiol, as it is known, is thought to boost the brain’s natural version of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the compound that gets you high – called anandamide, which becomes depleted after prolonged exposure.

Is treating addiction with drugs the answer?

Despite many conflicting opinions about the addictive nature of cannabis, a US study from the 1990s suggested that around nine per cent of regular users develop a dependency. However, one of the undeniable facts about cannabis is that the number of people seeking help for their smoking habit is on the up, especially among teenagers, with a 50 per cent increase in under-18s seeking treatment over the last decade.

“In 2012, doctors in São Paulo in Brazil suggested synthetic cannabidiol as a treatment for a 19-year-old woman who had intense withdrawal symptoms whenever she tried to quit cannabis,” reported New Scientist. “She had smoked it daily since she was 13. Her symptoms eased within a day or two of taking cannabidiol, and she managed to quit.”

This isn’t the first time that drugs have been used to combat addictions of course. Most famously, methadone has been used to treat opioid withdrawal, particularly heroin. Subutex is a lesser known opioid dependence treatment. While antabuse blocks an enzyme that is involved in metabolising alcohol intake and produces unpleasant side effects when combined with alcohol.

Psychological intervention is a better long-term solution

These synthetic substitutes clearly have a place in the treatment process. However, we don’t personally see the replacement of one drug with another as a sustainable long-term solution. At Port of Call, we are firmly of the opinion that treating drug and alcohol addiction requires intensive psychological intervention to break the destructive cycle and help addicted people get to the point where they don’t need – or want – to use or drink.

The benefits of drug counselling, for example, as well as talking therapies for alcoholism, cannot be underestimated. Within the private rehab process – widely accepted as the most effective way to treat addiction – drug counselling and drug support groups are an extremely effective means of achieving and maintaining freedom from active addiction.

The techniques employed can include individual counselling, group work, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), motivational enhancement therapy (MET) and relapse prevention. What is crucial, in our minds, is that people become rehabilitated to the point where not using is a actually a viable choice. That requires complete abstinence, effective ongoing support, and most of all…time.

There simply is no substitute to reaching out for help and that is where Port of Call is ready to assist.

Make us your first Port of Call. If you, or a loved one, are dealing with addiction we can help you to access the right addiction help at the right time. Take the first step today by speaking to one of our advisers for free on 08000029010 to find the right alcohol rehab or drug treatment centre for you.

About the author: Martin Preston

Martin is our Founder and Chief Executive. Martin is himself in long term recovery and started Port of Call to help families navigate treatment options. In 2020 Martin will open Delamere Health Ltd, the UK’s first purpose built addiction treatment clinic.

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