Posts tagged Amy Winehouse

Scientific American interviews Bankole Johnson

Does Rehab Work for Alcoholism and Other Addictions?

Singer Amy Winehouse’s fame and infamy have now been forever linked to one word: rehab. She is only one of many recent high-profile cases in which attempts at rehabilitation from substance abuse failed. Amidst strange public outbursts earlier this year, actor Charlie Sheen asserted that it was not rehab, but rather he, himself, that had been his secret weapon against abusing cocaine and booze.

Read on for the interview with Dr. Bankole Johnson.

Blowhard of the Day

Yesterday, Humanspirit, posting as “yixing” on the Guardian, responded to an article titled “Amy Winehouse: Why is there so little understanding of addiction?” and her comment was censored by the editors. They offered no specific reason, only linked to the commenting guidelines. Her comment was preserved, though, since another commenter, Gunnerson, took issue and quoted her in his/her response.  So we can see for a plain fact that the editors censored for opinion. The response, which stands, is stunning and I thought would serve as a good “quote of the day“:


There is nothing enlightened about doctors foisting their medical responsibilities onto AA or NA. These groups may work for some – the peer support is useful here, I suppose. But AA especially has an appalling failure rate, presumably because its programme has nothing to do with tackling addiction and everything to do with finding God, accepting personal powerlessness, prayer, confession, repentance, atonement, retribution, daily seeking of God’s will, and evangelizing the 12 step programme. (Anyone here who doesn’t believe me, look up the 12 steps of AA and AA’s “Big Book” online, and ask yourselves whether this really should be the default “treatment” for addiction that a secular society should be using in the 21st century.)
I’m assuming you now feel better after your fact-challenged rant.
But you’re not wrong about everything.

AA does have an appalling failure rate, something along the lines of 60%. Interestingly you do not mention any alternative modalities that do better than that. I suspect that’s because you don’t know any, and I further suspect that’s because there aren’t any.

The very reason that “patients” in expensive rehab centers are “forced” (your words, not mine) to familiarize themselves with the AA or NA programs is simply because if they did not do that their own “failure rates” would go through the roof.
The real scandal here, and you touch upon it, is the scumbags rehab operators pocketing oceans of cash by charging the earth for what is no more than a fancy referral service to a program that is free anyway.

Of course Bill Wilson was a shady operator – he worked on Wall Street for crissakes, what would you expect?
In spite of your fulminations about his character, and your condemnation (and misrepresentation) of the true breadth of AA and similar programs you completely fail to account for the fact that nothing else has so far come close in effectiveness for both theists and atheists alike.

The annoying (for folks like you) fact is that, as preposterous as AA can be, and it certainly can be that, and as unpalatable as some of its literature is to the secular mind, it’s still the most effective modality out there, and not just by a little bit.

I would fully expect AA and its offshoots to disappear of their own accord quite soon after being replaced by a treatment modality less offensive to your prejudices, something robustly scientific and comfortingly secular no doubt, but as of now there is nothing meeting those criteria to discuss, now is there?

Open Amy Winehouse Thread

Grief is about all I got, but I know that a lot of people in the world are taking the opportunity of Amy Winehouse’s death to say all kinds of  things about addiction and rehab.

Maia Szalavitz has a thoughtful, introspective piece in her Healthand column, which ends with these thoughts:

Only if an alternative method of reaching that state can be achieved is recovery possible.  For me, that came in learning that my belief in my own unlovability was a delusion and that my pain could be reduced by sharing it. Unfortunately, you can’t forcibly teach this.  Even if Winehouse hadn’t said “no, no, no” to many rehabs, no therapy would be able to reach her if she couldn’t first come to believe that her intolerable pain could end without self-medication.

And that’s why rehabs that use coercive tactics are often so counter-productive and why trying to force abstinence can  backfire. We know that the British system of addiction care offers more access to “harm reduction” programs that don’t require abstinence — but we don’t know whether Winehouse was offered this approach, what the circumstances of her death were and whether anything could have prevented it.

And here’s and excerpt from Stanton Peele’s Winehouse post:

So, was Amy’s dislike for rehab the cause of her death?  Not only an addict, Ms. Winehouse was too stupid or too much in denial, in this view, to recognize rehab or a 12-step group would be her salvation.

Except Ms. Winehouse had been in rehab any number of times.  In fact, she had just gotten out.  According to the BBC: “She had recently finished a course of alcohol rehabilitation in London and at the time was under strict instructions not to drink.”

Which reminds us that overdose deaths are much more likely after individuals leave institutions such as prisons or hospitals. They then return to accustomed levels of consumption of a substance after having lost their tolerance for it.

Hyacinth requested a dedicated thread to discuss the subject and the public response to. So, here you go…