Long before I began working in residential addiction treatment programs, I spent much of my career in hospitals and community-based treatment settings. In working with disadvantaged populations in community treatment programs, it became clear to me that only limited improvement can be achieved with medication alone.
There are many changes in people’s brains and behaviors that must take place for them to lead fulfilling lives.
Despite a growing body of neuroscientific research, we have yet to develop effective new treatments for addiction. Addiction is indeed a biological disease, but it is also a behavioral and spiritual one. As a result, modern medicine’s focus on developing new medications to treat addiction has fallen short.
Fortunately, some researchers are beginning to explore behavioral mechanisms that may fill in some of the gaps in addiction treatment. In a study published this month in Science, researchers from the National Institute of Drug Dependence at Peking University used a behavioral procedure to manipulate addicts’ memories of past drug-taking that shows promise in reducing drug cravings and preventing relapse.