5 Controversial Addiction Treatments

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5 Controversial Addiction Treatments

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)


The most utilized drug treatment programs are 12-step fellowship programs like Alcoholic Anonymous (AA), and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). However, there are many ways out there to achieve an optimal life in recovery. Some of these methods are very controversial. Even if they work for some people, the risks are often too high. Still, it is important to note that they are other programs out there. Therefore, if you find that you are struggling with your treatment program, it may be time to expand your support network. Do any of these programs appeal to you?

5 Controversial Addiction Treatments

  1. Moderation Management (MM)
    Moderation Management aims to help those who are in the early stages of “problem drinking.” Those who go to meetings like MM are not usually “alcoholics” The program focuses on tackling behaviors and helping participants make lifestyle changes. As the name suggests, the emphasis is on moderation rather than be an abstinence-based program.

    The Controversy? MM is not for everyone, and some people risk harm by trying to moderate their alcohol use, instead of focusing on an abstinent-only lifestyle. The organization is upfront in stating 30 percent of its members move on to abstinence-based programs. Even Audrey Kishline, one of the founder of Moderation Management left MM for abstinence-based programs like AA. Kishline made headlines when she was arrested driving blackout drunk and killing a 12-year old girl and her father. She served 3 ½ years in jail before being released. She admitted in a 2006 Dateline interview that she may have elevated the program as a way to “legitimize” her drinking behavior, and she says MM can work for someone “as long as they’re not truly an alcoholic.” Kishline was found dead in her Mother’s home on December 19th, 2014. Though it was never confirmed, it was widely believed to have been a suicide.

  2. SMART Recovery
    Smart Recovery stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. SMART is a worldwide support network known in the recovery community as the main alternative to AA. It is a four-point program based on abstinence. The ultimate goal of SMART is helping followers learn to lead a more balanced, structured life. It diverges from AA because it avoids the “powerless” ideology. Instead, techniques such as motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral therapy are used.

    The Controversy? The main controversy about SMART is the notion that addicts are not “powerless” over their addiction. This separates it from AA which emphasizes the powerless aspect in the first step. SMART recovery is about empowerment. Some criticisms of SMART are that the program is far too broad and deters other programs like AA. However, the organization states it is perfectly acceptable to use SMART alongside other sobriety aids, and even encourages it.

  3. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
    EFT is known more commonly as “tapping.” This technique involves just that: tapping on a series of pressure points while talking through challenges you are facing— for example, an addictive urge. The technique has roots in Eastern acupressure and combines that knowledge with Western psychotherapy. Tapping can also address the root causes of addiction.

    The Controversy? Some argue that it’s nonsense. Although small studies have shown very promising results, there is no science-based explanation on why or how the technique works. Some worry that people with serious mental condition will become over-reliant on the method. Still, the technique is mostly harmless, so it is worth a try.

  4. Neurofeedback
    Neurofeedback allows the ability for you to see your brain waves on a computer screen in real time. Thus, you can learn to alter certain brain rhythms through continuous feedback. This form of treatment has been used traditionally for PTSD, however now it is being used in rehab centers and some psychological clinics. Accumulating evidence supports its effectiveness for conditions like insomnia, anxiety and depression.

    The Controversy? Too new. It’s only been around for a short time and only has recently been used for addiction treatment. The research on the effects remain mixed and only time will tell if this will become the next best treatment.

  5. Hallucinogens/ Psychedelics
    Hallucinogens and psychedelics are the next methods that some researchers believe to be effective in treating addiction. Ibogaine is a psychedelic substance that’s illegal in the U.S. However, in other countries, it is used to treat addiction to opiates, alcohol, and other substances. Ibogaine is thought to work by dampening the brain’s reward pathway. It is found to be particularly effective in lessening the effects of withdrawal.
    Hallucinogens like magic mushrooms and ayahuasca have been considered a potential treatment for drug addiction. Ayahuasca is a healing brew traditionally used by indigenous peoples in the Amazon. The thinking is the drug can affect the brain cell receptors that control addiction. On a more spiritual level, people report having a healing experience or spiritual awakening that they believe to clear them of their past struggles.

    The Controversy? Well… they are drugs, for one, so that is considered quite the unorthodox treatment option for drug addiction. Furthermore, because they are illegal, it is difficult for scientific studies to be approved to validate their effectiveness. The research is still ongoing and remains misunderstood.

Did anything stand out to you? While 12-step fellowships work for many people, everyone is different. It is important to understand all your options and the risks associated with them. Ultimately, the greatest risk is not seeking help at all. Get help today. Do not wait. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.