Does shame ever work

By Heide-Marie Göbbel. Canadian psychotherapist and ex-alcoholic Mike Pond has been without alcohol for five years.

He is outraged because - he says - doctors around the world are still making addicts like him suffer unnecessarily long. Even self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous have not achieved the success they are accredited. There are now huge advances in medicine and in the treatment of addiction. But most people are not informed about the helpful new possibilities, and many doctors are also not aware of them.

Mike Pond and filmmaker Maureen Palmer tell in the documentary “Dependent! The anti-addiction pill “Pond's amazing story, 3sat will broadcast the film on Thursday at 8:15 pm. It is part of the “Dependent!” Theme week, which will show numerous documentaries, feature films and panel discussions on this topic until Friday.

Every addiction, the viewer learns, works according to similar principles - be it alcohol, pills, games, shopping or another addiction. Alcohol addiction is usually fought with psychotherapeutic measures, report Pond and Palmer. But the success is low: Many patients find it difficult to control drinking. Even after inpatient therapy, an average of around 50 percent of patients would relapse within one to two years. The filmmakers wanted to know why this was and whether a drug could help those willing to leave.

Ten years ago, Mike Pond couldn't imagine that his life story would ever go public. Feelings of guilt and shame were too great. If he had known what he knows now, Pond said, his marriage and psychotherapy practice would likely continue today. When he got seizures from alcohol and ended up in the emergency room more and more often, his family could no longer help him. He ended up on the street, Alcoholics Anonymous being his only refuge. The community and mutual support are the best thing about them, he says, but their well-known "twelve-point program" is actually not a treatment method. On the contrary, adds clinical psychologist William R. Miller: If guilt and shame are increased, the risk of suicide increases. With no other diagnosis, the patient would be insulted and yelled at, that something like that is not done with addicts.

In a clinic, Pond met the documentary filmmaker Palmer, who is now his partner. She accompanied him on his personal journey of exploration into the question of what new opportunities there are for addicts and advised him to write a book about his experiences. The brain researcher Robert Malenke, for example, and the psychiatrist Joseph P. Schacht, Pond continues, had shown him on the basis of their own brain scans that he still responds to the images of spirits. There is still a risk of relapse.

But nobody has to wait for the next catastrophe today - everyone can take effective preventive measures with medication. If one doesn't help, try something else with the help of the doctors until the right one is found. The most important thing that Pond and Palmer learned on their exploration trip was that the previous requirement for absolute abstinence could not help in every case and forever. People with a hereditary addiction disposition, for example, produced less happiness hormone dopamine, as Pond's brain scans also showed, and were therefore more likely to resort to drugs. Only medication could help you.

Overall, Pond and Palmer have succeeded in creating an exciting and illuminating documentary with many interesting details that can help to deal with addiction problems differently in the future.

After the documentary at 9 p.m., Gert Scobel will also discuss with his guests on the subject of “Dependent! - People's drug alcohol ".