The End of My Addiction

Front Cover
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Dec 23, 2008 - Biography & Autobiography - 332 pages
"After years of battling uncontrollable addiction, I have achieved the supposedly impossible: complete freedom from craving." Dr. Olivier Ameisen was a brilliant cardiologist on the staff at one of America’s top teaching hospitals and running his own successful practice when he developed a profound addiction to alcohol. He broke bones with no memory of falling; he nearly lost his kidneys; he almost died from massive seizures during acute withdrawal. He gave up his flourishing practice and, fearing for his life, immersed himself in Alcoholics Anonymous, rehab, therapy, and a variety of medications. Nothing worked. So he did the only thing he could: he took his treatment into his own hands. Searching for a cure for his deadly disease, he happened upon baclofen, a muscle relaxant that had been used safely for years as a treatment for various types of muscle spasticity, but had more recently shown promising results in studies with laboratory animals addicted to a wide variety of substances. Dr. Ameisen prescribed himself the drug and experimented with increasingly higher dosages until he finally reached a level high enough to leave him free of any craving for alcohol. That was more than five years ago.  Alcoholism claims three hundred lives per day in the United States alone; one in four U.S. deaths is attributable to alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs. Baclofen, as prescribed under a doctor’s care, could possibly free many addicts from tragic and debilitating illness. But as long as the medical and research establishments continue to ignore a cure for one of the most deadly diseases in the world, we won’t be able to understand baclofen’s full addiction-treatment potential. The End of My Addiction is both a memoir of Dr. Ameisen’s own struggle and a groundbreaking call to action—an urgent plea for research that can rescue millions from the scourge of addiction and spare their loved ones the collateral damage of the disease. Olivier Ameisen, MD, inaugurated the position of official physician to the prime minister of France. He came to the United States in 1983 to join the prestigious cardiology team at New York Hospital and Cornell University Medical Center, where he became an associate professor of clinical medicine and an associate attending physician. He is currently Visiting Professor of Medicine at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center. "After years of battling uncontrollable addiction, I have achieved the supposedly impossible: complete freedom from craving."

Dr. Olivier Ameisen was a brilliant cardiologist on the staff at one of America’s top teaching hospitals and running his own successful practice when he developed a profound addiction to alcohol. He broke bones with no memory of falling; he nearly lost his kidneys; he almost died from massive seizures during acute withdrawal. He gave up his flourishing practice and, fearing for his life, immersed himself in Alcoholics Anonymous, rehab, therapy, and a variety of medications. Nothing worked. So he did the only thing he could: he took his treatment into his own hands. Searching for a cure for his deadly disease, he happened upon baclofen, a muscle relaxant that had been used safely for years as a treatment for various types of muscle spasticity, but had more recently shown promising results in studies with laboratory animals addicted to a wide variety of substances. Dr. Ameisen prescribed himself the drug and experimented with increasingly higher dosages until he finally reached a level high enough to leave him free of any craving for alcohol. That was more than five years ago.  Alcoholism claims three hundred lives per day in the United States alone; one in four U.S. deaths is attributable to alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs. Baclofen, as prescribed under a doctor’s care, could possibly free many addicts from tragic and debilitating illness. But as long as the medical and research establishments continue to ignore a cure for one of the most deadly diseases in the world, we won’t be able to understand baclofen’s full addiction-treatment potential. The End of My Addiction is both a memoir of Dr. Ameisen’s own struggle and a groundbreaking call to action—an urgent plea for research that can rescue millions from the scourge of addiction and spare their loved ones the collateral damage of the disease. “A French-American cardiologist then affiliated with New York Hospital-Cornell University Medical College descended into years of hellish alcohol addiction that essentially ended his medical practice in 1997. His move back to Paris and self-treatment with the unproven drug baclofen is the subject of this clinical, thoroughgoing memoir. Early on, Ameisen, the child of Holocaust survivors and an accomplished pianist, recognized that deep-seated anxiety was driving him to drink, yet doctors treated the drinking rather than the anxiety. He tried years of AA, rehab and medication, but in time he was binging again-blacking out and ending up in psych wards or the emergency room with broken bones. When he read about the muscle relaxant baclofen in a New York Times article, suggesting that it could repress the craving in addicts as well as control muscular spasm, he seized on the drug as his life line. He researched baclofen, prescribed it to himself (thanks to France's medical identity cards) and essentially used himself as a study over several months, increasing the dosage as necessary. The results were remarkable, and his dogged self-case study published by the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism in 2005 gathered slow but intensive interest. As a trained physician who is evidently well connected, Ameisen is not a typical patient, yet his work is brave, insightful and sure to be significant.” Publishers Weekly "You have discovered the treatment for addiction."Jean Dausset, M.D., winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Medicine

"The End of My Addiction—part memoir, part medical mystery—has at its heart a bold claim: There is a happy-making pill that can cure alcoholism. More than 100,000 people die from alcoholism in the United States every year, making Olivier Ameisen's claims for the drug baclofen a world-changing discovery . . . He is as deft with the medical basis for baclofen's efficacy as he is unsparing in his personal account of alcohol's terrors . . . As struggling addicts come to recognize Ameisen's many failures, they may also find themselves advocating right beside him: Baclofen's out-of-patent status will surely require public rather than private funding and its convincingly argued promise is too large to neglect. In recounting his trials, Ameisen notes that 'there is scarcely another major illness whose treatment has been static over the last seventy or more years.' If the claims made by The End of My Addiction are true, Ameisen's story will not only be an engrossing journey from sickness to health, but one of medicine's heroic episodes."—Joel Turnipseed, The Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

"As a cardiologist, Olivier Ameisen was familiar with hospitals, but not being detained in a psychiatric ward. Being committed to a New York hospital after yet another drinking binge was one of the many low points in his seven-year struggle with alcoholism. The End of My Addiction is the fascinating tale of how he found his own cure through a bout of pharmacological trial and error. Standard drug treatments for alcoholism and endless AA meetings hadn't helped Ameisen. He lost his job and his girlfriend, and in his forties had to move back home with his mother in France. Then he heard of a medicine called baclofen, long-used safely as a muscle relaxant, which animal research and a few anecdotal reports from cocaine users suggested reduced drug cravings. While in France, he began self-prescribing and found that at the standard dose his cravings for alcohol lessened. Desperate for a complete cure, he upped his dose beyond the medical recommendation and found his cravings eliminated. He has been sober for five years. One person's experience isn't, of course, proof of a cure. For that you would need large randomised trials, though the results of one small 12-week trial were promising (The Lancet, vol 370, p 1915). But this engaging account does give interesting insights into the toll this disease can take and shows how, at least in this case, it was possible to fight back. It also explores the science behind baclofen's possible mechanism of action, and why it may be useful against other addictions."—Clare Wilson, New Scientist

"Dr. Olivier Ameisen was a brilliant cardiologist and running his own successful practice when he developed a profound addiction to alcohol. He broke bones with no memory of falling; he nearly lost his kidneys; he almost died from massive seizures during acute withdrawal. Fearing for his life, he immersed himself in AA, rehab and therapy but nothing worked. So he did the only thing he could; he took his treatment into his own hands. Searching for a cure for his deadly disease, he happened upon baclofen, a muscle relaxant that had shown promising results in studies with laboratory animals addicted to a wide variety of substances. Dr. Ameisen prescribed himself the drug and experimented with increasingly higher doses until he finally reached a level high enough to leave him free of any craving for alcohol. That was more than five years ago. Baclofen, as prescribed under a doctor's care, could possibly help many addicts. But as long as the medical and research establishments continue to ignore a cure for one of the most deadly diseases in the world, we won't be able to understand baclofen's full potential. This book is a moving plea for research that can rescue millions from the scourge of addiction."—Medical News Today

"WOW! . . . This is a wonderful book . . . Ameisen may be responsible for making a signal discovery much like, but better than, that of George Cotzias, [the first to show that L-dopa could alleviate Parkinson’s disease,] in that so many more patients may be involved."—Jerome B. Posner, M.D., George C. Cotzias Chair of Neuro-oncology, Department of Neurology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

“This book is . . . the story of the dazzling discovery of a cure that could soon be within reach of all. If you or someone close to you suffers from alcoholism or drug dependence, you must read this book.” —David Servan-Schreiber, M.D., Ph.D., author of The Instinct to Heal and Anticancer

"In this remarkably candid memoir of crippling alcoholism, cardiologist Ameisen’s passion for curing addiction is palpable, at times gritty, and, in the end, hopeful."—Booklist

"A French-American cardiologist then affiliated with New York Hospital-Cornell University Medical College descended into years of hellish alcohol addiction that essentially ended his medical practice in 1997. His move back to Paris and self-treatment with the unproven drug baclofen is the subject of this clinical, thoroughgoing memoir. Early on, Ameisen, the child of Holocaust survivors and an accomplished pianist, recognized that deep-seated anxiety was driving him to drink, yet doctors treated the drinking rather than the anxiety. He tried years of AA, rehab and medication, but in time he was binging again-blacking out and ending up in psych wards or the emergency room with broken bones. When he read about the muscle relaxant baclofen in a New York Times article, suggesting that it could repress the craving in addicts as well as control muscular spasm, he seized on the drug as his life line. He researched baclofen, prescribed it to himself (thanks to France's medical identity cards) and essentially used himself as a study over several months, increasing the dosage as necessary. The results were remarkable, and his dogged self-case study published by the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism in 2005 gathered slow but intensive interest. As a trained physician who is evidently well connected, Ameisen is not a typical patient, yet his work is brave, insightful and sure to be significant."Publishers Weekly

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - bolero - LibraryThing

Dramatic account of a French cardiologist ending his long addiction to alcohol using the drug baclofen. A book of hope for many types of addictions. Read full review

Contents

Moment of Truth
3
A Remedy Gone Wrong
18
Under Treatment and In Recovery
41
Copyright

16 other sections not shown

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2008)

Olivier Ameisen, MD, inaugurated the position of official physician to the prime minister of France. He came to the United States in 1983 to join the prestigious cardiology team at New York Hospital and Cornell University Medical Center, where he became an associate professor of clinical medicine and an associate attending physician. He is currently Visiting Professor of Medicine at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center.