Archive for the Disease Model of Addiction Category

The Non-Randomness of Addiction

Go read “The Addictive Personality and the Non-Randomness of Addiction” by Rob Arthur on his blog, Narco Polo.

Watters and Wine

Remember the Catholic Priest, Fr. Pete Watters, who was featured in the article about Toronto AA’s removing the agnostic groups from the roster (“Does Religion Belong at AA? Fight over ‘God’ Splits Toronto AA Groups“)? He was quoted in that article:

“People and agencies can help,” Watters says, “but the only one who can restore that person to permanent sobriety is God. But that’s the God of your understanding — that can be anything you want.”

How does a Catholic priest reconcile advising others to believe in whatever conception of God they want? Can God be whatever you want if you’re a Catholic? Do false gods work just as well in AA as Catholic God? According to his faith, isn’t Watters condemning people to both disease and damnation by encouraging them to pick any conception of God they want?

Is Watters really a Catholic?

The Toronto Star recently wrote an article commemorating Watters for his 50 years of sobriety in AA (“Priest Calls on His Own Demons to Help Others with Theirs“), and includes this detail:

And then, at 50, he felt a calling that rekindled youthful dreams of joining the priesthood that booze interrupted.

“So I went to the bishop and I asked him, ‘Are you taking any old men these days?’ The next thing I knew I was in the seminary,” he said.

He was ordained a few years later and even received dispensation from the Vatican to celebrate communion with grape juice, so he doesn’t have to sip sacramental wine, because “it’s pretty good stuff,” he laughed.

It seems that this priest has more faith in the tenets of AA than he does in Catholicism, though which the substance of the wine is transformed into the blood of Christ. Despite all appearances to the contrary, the truth — according to Catholic faith — is that the wine is no longer wine.  But it is for this priest.  It seems that he has more faith in AA’s disease model than he does in transubstantiation.

What’s his real religion?

Bonus Quote of the Day

An AA member responds to the Watters article:

I am writing to express my deep disappointment that the Star continues to provide a platform for this priest to dishonour the fellowship that helped save his life. AA is called Alcoholics Anonymous for a reason — we have a long tradition of anonymity expected of our members at the level of press, radio and films.

This is not because we are ashamed of being alcoholics. It is to ensure our humility and to enforce the fact that no one person has the right to represent AA to the world at large. Glory and grandiosity are very dangerous for recovering alcoholics, who are egomaniacs at the best of times.

By continuing to publish this priest’s full name and photo while associating him with AA, you are hurting his sobriety. I am very sorry to see a second article of this nature in three months.

Andrea O, Strathroy


Rehab Nation

Who didn’t see this coming? Anthony Weiner has checked himself into treatment for “sexual addiction!”

We all know what will happen next.

After he leaves rehab, Weiner will make the tearful apology to his constituents and wife on television. Whether he then leaves his office or stays, he will have joined the growing number of celebrities, politicians and ordinary Joes who have come to see bad behavior as a “disease.” He will become “powerless.”

Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post doesn’t appreciate the contamination of American culture by the addiction culture. She writes: Continue reading Rehab Nation

“Costs of Alcohol”

A few weeks ago, we posted about an article (h/t JD) about how BC was adopting a disease or medical approach to alcoholism. The article was interesting, because, while the disease model has proven disastrous in the US, BC’s take on it seems less about the politics of recovery and all about adopting a practical, effective approach to the problem. In other words, seeing alcoholism as a medical condition allows funding for treatment and research to flow more freely, which is the best application of the disease model I can think of.

Here’s a follow-up on that article:

Costs of Alcohol: Alcoholism as a disease up for debate but no denying society pays a heavy price

Whether or not these costs are a result of diagnosable disease remains an ongoing debate and a loaded question that [Tim] Stockwell [director of the Centre for Addictions Research B.C.] is wary of answering.

“At some point, you might label somebody as having a disease and if that helps get them treatment, fine,” Stockwell says. “I think it’s a great simplification.”

The term didn’t fit for Michael Walsh, who was living a sober life, following recovery from a cocaine addiction and alcohol abuse, but still harbouring the negativity associated with labelling himself an alcoholic. Seeing a lack of support options available in Greater Victoria, Walsh founded the Canadian branch of LifeRing, a peer-support addiction recovery group based on the principles of sobriety, secularity and self-help.

“I’m Michael and I’m more than someone who has struggled with addiction and abuse,” says Walsh, executive director LifeRing Secular Recovery (Society Canada), a registered charity that has nine groups that meet regularly in the Capital Region. “I had to shake that.”

Some of the beliefs imparted on Walsh early in his recovery – being told that  alcohol abuse was a disease, that it was hereditary and that the only support was through Alcoholics Anonymous – only complicated the process for him and are not a part of the LifeRing platform, (although members are encouraged to use any additional support systems they find personally helpful).

For Stockwell, the most appropriate way of looking at the problem is to say there’s “a continuum of dependence severity” that includes anyone who uses substances. As far as alcoholism being hereditary, there are genetic components to almost everything a person does and thinks – substance use is no different.

Twenty-five years of using drugs and drinking fractured relationships in Walsh’s life. Those haven’t yet been repaired after years of sobriety and he continues to attend meetings periodically as he steers the organization.

“Part of what we encourage people to do is open up,” Walsh says. “There’s more to life than recovery. Anything’s possible.”


Up the Tiger Bloodline

Charlie Sheen’s father made an interesting comment, which I thought that I would post here because it furthers the dialog from yesterday’s post and comments:

“So if he had cancer, how would we deal with him? Well, he has another disease and it’s equally as dangerous as cancer. “

I think Martin Sheen, who is a card-carrying AA member, should answer his own rhetorical question. How would he treat his own cancer, should he ever be diagnosed? How would he recommend that his family be treated? Would it be with faith healing, slogans, letters of apology to anyone he ever wronged? How would he react if the cancer spread, and the doctors told him it was because he was not working the program properly? Would he ignore any potential underlying cause of the cancer, and presuppose that he got it because of moral failing and spiritual deficiency? Of course, we know the answers to questions. He wouldn’t treat his or Charlie’s cancer like he does their addictions, because it is a ridiculous way to approach a disease. Continue reading Up the Tiger Bloodline

B.C. Treats Alcoholism As A Medical Condition

One problem with the current disease model of addiction is that it doesn’t actually result in treatments that approach addiction as a disease. It says, “Addiction is an incurable progressive disease over which you are powerless. Therefore you need a spiritual awakening… .” Nonsense. Since when does medical science believe we’re powerless over a disease?

JD brought us an article today about how B.C. is about to adopt an approach to addiction that seeks to actually bring medical protocols to the treatment of addiction, which is a step in the right direction. I don’t think the current disease model has been at all useful, but if you need to call it a real disease in order to quit with the faith healing, then I’m not going to stand in your way.

“If somebody is diagnosed with a chronic illness, then treat it in a preventive way, rather than in a crisis intervention way.”

Dr. Shao-Hua Lu, an addiction psychiatrist, who chaired the BCMA committee that produced the report, said the government’s move will help push acceptance and expansion of medical treatment for addiction.

“What B.C. has done is to become the first jurisdiction in Canada to formally recognize [addiction] under the chronic disease management program and formally recognize the role of medicine as an important component in the treatment of addiction,” he said.

So, according to this, treating alcoholism as a medical condition means being reasonable and adopting a preventative approach, which is antithetical to the current AA wisdom, which believes that one must “hit bottom” before the “solution” will work — as causeandeffect pointed out in the comments. This new approach also seems to value medicine… in fact, it seems that it will be open to anything that can support wellness.
There’s a little AA bullshit at the bottom of the article, for balance, I guess:

Family care physicians are ideally placed to broach the subject of addiction and the need for treatment, said Gordon Harper of the Umbrella Society for Addictions and Mental Health in Victoria.

“I really want to celebrate the role that primary care physicians have but they can’t take the person by the hand and walk them into their first AA meeting,” said Harper.

“Walking into your first AA meeting is the scariest thing you’ll ever do in your whole life.”

I’m not sure what this dude’s skeptical tone is about — I think “scold” is the baseline with some of these people. What’s interesting about his comment is the assumption that the sole function of these doctors will be to send people to AA. But it doesn’t sound like AA is the only thing on the agenda here, especially if these doctors actually begin boning up on addiction research.
(Thanks, JD)

Can you quit on your own?

Thanks Acacia!

Can You Cure Yourself of Drug Addiction?

Scientific American spoke with Sally Satel, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and lecturer in psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, about quitting drugs without professional treatment. Satel was formerly a staff psychiatrist at the Oasis Clinic in Washington, D.C., where she worked with substance abuse patients.

[An edited transcript of the interview follows.]

Is it possible to cure yourself of addiction without professional help? How often does that happen?
Of course it’s possible. Most people recover and most people do it on their own. That’s in no way saying that everyone should be expected to quit on their own and in no way denies that quitting is a hard thing to do. This is just an empirical fact. It is even possible that those who quit on their own could have quit earlier if they sought professional help. The implicit message isn’t that treatment isn’t important for many—in fact it should probably be made more accessible—but it is simply a fact that most people cure themselves.

Read the whole article…

The Disease Debate

In the “Why I Left AA” thread, Rotten Ralph made a statement that I thought might spark a debate, so before that happens, I am moving that discussion here. If anyone wants to discuss the disease model, this is your thread.

Disease Model and Stigma

(S.P. forwarded this along… Thank you!!)

Stigma Unaffected by Acceptance of Disease Model, Study Finds

Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, public health advocates promoted the view that mental illness and substance abuse are rooted in neurobiology. Researchers from Indiana University and  Columbia University decided to test whether these efforts had changed public perception, support for treatment, and attitudes about people living with disorders.

Go see what they discovered…