Impairing Social Connectedness: The Dangers of Treating Grief With Naltrexone

Kara Thieleman, Joanne Cacciatore, Shanéa Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

A study is currently underway in the United States using the opioid antagonist naltrexone to treat prolonged grief, which is conceptualized in the study’s proposal as an addiction disorder. The researchers’ stated intention is to use the pharmaceutical agent to disrupt the griever’s capacity to engage in social bonding to eliminate craving for the person who died. We believe this approach is misguided for a number of reasons. It demeans the importance of the relationship between the bereaved and the deceased loved one, further isolates grievers from the very social support networks that could help facilitate adaptation to bereavement, and could have a disproportionate negative impact on marginalized communities, who tend to rely more heavily on informal sources of support. We argue that social connection is at the very core of healing and that disregarding and interfering with this capacity could have widespread detrimental effects on grievers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Humanistic Psychology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • bereavement
  • grief
  • naltrexone
  • social connection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science

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