Weightlifters use spotters, writers use editors, and factories use quality control inspectors. Clearly, utilizing more people and more processes often creates improvements. So, why shouldn’t people seeking help for addiction utilize more than one type of treatment?
Multiple treatment approaches are evident in Narcotics Anonymous groups (NA) for people using medication-assisted treatment (MAT). These groups combine the 12-step approach of fellowship, sponsorship, and meetings for people who are also receiving medication-assisted treatment. The treatment typically involves prescription medications that handle cravings for opioid drugs such as heroin and oxycodone (OxyContin).
Narcotics Anonymous groups of people receiving MAT seem to combine the best of both worlds. From a medical perspective, the people receive drugs such as Suboxone or methadone. Since the drugs are similar to the drugs they once abused, people experience fewer cravings while taking the prescription drugs and are less likely to go through painful withdrawals.
People using methadone or Suboxone also are using it under their doctors’ supervision. This is important, because doctors may check on people to see if they’re using the drugs correctly or may check on other aspects of their patients’ physical and mental health. If something goes wrong, doctors may spot and help treat the problem quickly. Time is important, because the longer people struggle with addictions or experience other problems, the more difficult it is to treat their conditions.
Doctors aren’t the only people who provide help in Narcotics Anonymous (NA) groups that support medication-assisted treatment. Such groups offer many of the trappings of other NA groups, notably peer support.
Peers in such groups can sympathize with other people who have had similar experiences. They can offer advice and learn from other people’s advice. Notably, since these NA members have received or are receiving MAT, they are less likely to receive stigma for seeking their particular type of treatment. Sadly, there are still stigmas surrounding MAT, even in NA and AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) communities, because some people feel that drug-assisted treatment is swapping one addiction for another.
Instead, NA groups that support MAT acknowledge that many treatments and many people may help people. To fight a disease as complex as addiction, we should consider utilizing as many tools as possible.