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Saturday, October 13th, 2007

We’ve come a long way in two years

Posted by Roberta Jewell
Categories: Medications and research

It’s been interesting, this past week, watching the plethora of news stories roll in about Topamax and its potential for treating alcohol dependence. Patients of the My Way Out program have known about this for over two years. I based my book and the therapy I developed around Dr. Bankole Johnson’s 2003 clinical trial as published in The Lancet. It’s always puzzled me that outside of our program and the esoteric work of addiction specialists, his original breakthrough study didn’t gain more notoriety among physicians and their alcoholic patients. We’ve found it to be an extremely effective medication for many alcohol dependent individuals, particularly when it’s used in the context of a multi-faceted program with nutritional supplementation, exercise, behavior modification and support.

So…fast forward four years and here we are. Topamax, does indeed curb the desire to drink. In the meantime, other medications including Campral, Revia, Acomplia, Baclofen and Chantix have also been introduced and found helpful.

Research takes time. I get that. I understand it’s important we adopt rigorous standards when testing new meds. We need to ensure objective results and safeguard those who will eventually trust their health to those remarkable little pills that dance on the receptors of our mid-brains.

But like many people, I wanted results faster than science was willing to offer. It’s one of the reasons I grabbed the research at hand and ran with it. I mixed it up with some rather non-traditional strategies–at least at the time–and incorporated elements from the far East, including kudzu, an herb known by practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine. They’d used it for hundreds of years to blunt alcohol craving, so I did too. It has since been proven effective in human studies in the west and is only one of several important nutritional supplements to help detoxify and heal the body while addressing addiction.

I looked also at what holistic medicine had to offer and added hypnotherapy to the program. It’s a powerful tool in overriding old habits while overpowering drinking triggers. Exercise and nutrition were equally important as elements of this newfangled system.

Then came the technology. The online forum. The place to meet for those lab rats brave enough to try all this out. It’s also where much of the magic happens. Even a traditional alcohol recovery counselor will tell you that success in sobriety is very much dependent on a support system. Thousands of people from around the world have found that very thing at My Way Out’s message board and I’m very proud of what happens there each and every day. The support, camaraderie and information sharing are unparalleled.

Our members are often individuals who will not attend face-to-face 12-step meetings. For them, we offer a safe, anonymous and supportive alternative. That is not to say our site is mutually exclusive of local meetings or sponsors. Those are often lifelines for individuals in recovery and in fact, our members sometimes encourage others to seek help at a community AA or Women For Sobriety meetings. We are all about choice.

So what’s next? I certainly have no shortage of ideas. The same is true of Dr. Linda Garcia, MD, the Medical Director of My Way Out, who is called upon to speak about the program, and does so throughout the United States. We have found that health care providers are eager to learn about effective new strategies in addiction treatment, particularly those that are inexpensive and easily managed. This is certainly the case for MWO, which can be administered by any prescribing clinician.

I’ve learned much since writing My Way Out, and to be honest, I do not aspire to write another book (having never aspired to write the first!) because the process simply takes too long. But I do have much to say.

My goal is to continue to refine the MWO program to help ensure individual success for everyone who seeks help by it. I want to provide specific resources in terms of research, motivation, products, and guidance that will not only give people hope that they can overcome their alcohol dependence, but will guarantee their success. We don’t use that word–guarentee–in this “industry”. It’s not allowed. But I don’t care. Because I think we have to continue breaking rules if we want to win this battle. We have to see ourselves healthy and know it will happen before we take that very first step. In my heart, I am convinced that is just as important as any pill that any company will ever develop.

If you don’t believe me, just go to the forum and read the posts of those who have followed the program, or modified it to their needs, and take note of those who are now posting about their success. Notice their user names. Observe their “mood” icons. Read those messages. Feel that energy. You’ll see a pattern, I promise.

That’s not something I wrote about in my book. But it’s equally important. Those individual teach all of us something. And they reminds us of just how far we’ve really come.

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