Archive for 17 June 2011

The American Obsession With Addiction

The Irish Times wrote a good piece on America’s addiction to the treatment industry. It includes a brilliant and insightful quote from a familiar voice:

How US obsession with addiction has spawned a rehab industry

The prevailing method of treating addiction is known as the “Minnesota model”, after the Hazelden organisation’s first residential centre in Minnesota in 1949. “The 28-day patient model was driven by what insurance would pay for,” says Jaffe. The idea was to end the snake-pit-style institutions in which mental illness and addiction were treated until then.

The vast majority of rehab centres have adapted the 12-step therapy invented by Alcoholics Anonymous back in 1935. The first step is to admit that one is powerless to control one’s addiction. Half of the 12 steps mention God.

“It’s very much a carry-over from the temperance movement of the 1800s,” says Steven Slate, a recovered addict and founder of TheCleanSlate.org website.

“Alcohol was from the devil and you were a sinner. The devil got hold of you. Now it’s the disease that gets hold of you. It’s this outside thing; not me. It’s faith-healing and we are calling it treatment.”

Slate is part of the backlash against America’s rehab culture. He believes the obsession with addiction and rehab has become a self-fulfilling – and self-perpetuating – prophecy.

Like Jeffrey Schaler, the author of Addiction is a Choice and Gene Heyman, a lecturer in psychology at Harvard Medical school and author of Addiction: A Disorder of Choice, Slate says people do drugs, sex and alcohol because they are pleasurable, and that the best way to overcome addiction is to find other things that make you happy.

Slate blames rehab culture for making people believe they’re engaged in a lifelong struggle against addiction. “It’s horrific,” he says. “They don’t allow people to move on with their lives. They keep them in their clutches.”