How addiction therapy has changed over the years
Care and understanding around addiction has evolved over time from days where treatment was often punishing, even cruel, and sometimes shocking.
Whilst work still needs to be done to reduce shame and stigma around addiction, increasingly care is becoming more gentle, holistic and understanding.
Things have come a long way from the days when gold-based solutions were routinely injected into those battling addiction.
Historically, many of the worst treatments were practiced in America. But whilst it may seem surprising that more than 200 clinics once existed in the country where a core treatment for alcoholism and addiction involved injections of gold based solutions, one of the central premises of those American clinics may have helped develop treatments still relied upon today.
The Keeley Cure for alcoholism
The founder of the model and ‘Keeley Cure’ or ‘Gold Cure,’ as it was also known, Dr Leslie Keeley is said to have been the first person to treat alcoholism as a medical disease rather than a moral weakness.
Dr Keeley is also said to have encouraged what would be described as group therapy today, still much relied upon today in renowned community support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous as well as in rehab centres across the world.
Early treatment examples
The Keeley Cure was introduced in 1879, but was not the only apparently odd treatment for alcoholism in history.
In 1899, an antibody emerged as a potential vaccine to alcoholism and was developed from horse blood.
As recently as 1930-1950, it is said an attempt to cure prisoners in Colorado State Penitentiary of addiction involved creating blisters on their abdomens, which were then drained of fluid which was injected into their arms.
The Minnesota Model
The 1950s were a pivotal point for addiction treatment when the Minnesota Model was born.
One of the key elements of the model was the incorporation of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and requiring people to attend lectures on them.
The approach was initially adopted within the Hazelden Foundation – a not-for-profit therapeutic community for alcoholics and addicts. The foundation presented an alternative to mental health wards, which had been the most likely destination for alcoholics previously.
The Minnesota Model was so popular that it remains at the heart of a vast majority of drugs and alcohol addiction services and rehab centres to this day.
The future of drugs and alcohol addiction treatment
Forward thinking rehab and treatment services are continuing to build models of care that are supportive and understanding of addiction and seek to empower people to achieve recovery.
Talking therapies such as counselling and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) – a method of support that seeks to help people analyse, question and change the way they think – remain common in modern addiction treatment.
Somatic therapies are also now finding their place. These types of therapies help people to release trauma and find ways to feel better without talking those issues through. They’re helpful to everyone and can be especially powerful for those who find speaking about their issues very difficult to begin with. It’s the same sort of thing that can be achieved through exercise, dance, yoga and meditation, but performed under the guidance of trained clinicians.
Finding the right care for you or your loved one
We’re fortunate to be living in an age where there is much more compassion and understanding around addiction.
There are numerous charities and independent organisations that can advise on treatment styles and options available. No one need suffer alone.
If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one, your GP is a sensible first stop to ask about what help is available.