If you go to the doctor with a broken arm, the doctor will not only put your arm in a cast, he or she will also prescribe you painkillers. Treating the symptoms of a injury or illness is standard medical practise — nothing to shout home about. There is, however, one type of pain we don’t treat with medicine. And that is emotional pain.
Alcohol, sugar, heroin — the desire to rid oneself of emotional pain by external means has been ever-present in human history. It’s part of the human condition. I do not believe there is an answer to addiction without first discovering more ways to temporarily treat the symptoms of a person’s distress whilst simultaneously treating the causes.
The treatment of emotional pain and brain illness has undoubtedly been held back because the prohibition on psychotropic drugs has hindered research. Whilst that prohibition has lifted slightly in recent years, the accompanying stigma around drug use has not. There even seems to be a kinder perception towards people who use party drugs like ecstasy and cocaine — who can blame anyone for wanting a good time, right?
Drug users who prefer heroin and alcohol are perceived so differently from party-drug users and I believe this is due to what those users are trying to do with their drugs. These are the drugs that stymie emotional distress. For users, these are a temporary escape from a reality they do not like. To want to escape reality is considered a character flaw but noone can ever give me a good reason why excusing oneself from one’s own pain isn’t a valid temporary choice.
Even though everyday painkillers are thought to numb emotional anguish as well as physical pain, I doubt you would be prescribed these for emotional pain if you were an otherwise healthy individual. It is 2018. I do not believe that it is impossible to create a non-addictive drug specifically designed to numb emotional pain without getting the patient high.
There is only one major reason this drug is not yet available from your local pharmacy: the moral taboo against using external drugs to treat emotional pain.
If we are serious about treating addiction comprehensively and ridding the world of prohibition — this is the final frontier.