In a recent article in Psychology Today titled "Addiction in Society," it was hammered home that when it comes to addiction, the "disease theory" is full of sh*t, but everyone is afraid to buck the mainstream system and say so.
Using the all-too-familiar expletive perfectly illustrates the frustration that is felt by most substance abusers and their counselors, as well as many professionals in the field, regarding the treatment of addiction. Case in point are the continued episodes of unsuccessful treatment methods and addiction relapses that dog Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton.
These two troubled women represent only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to addiction woes for high-functioning adults in the entertainment industry. Are we exploiting their private pain or stupid mistakes as entertainment for our viewing pleasure because of their public image? I see their negative publicity as an opportunity for us to wake up and re-evaluate the addiction treatment philosophy in today's society.
I am of the opinion that addiction is not a disease – certainly not in the classical sense. However, society continues to pigeon-hole all addicts and abusers into the same class. Whether you over-indulge, imbibe socially, or occasionally drink too much to self-medicate an emotional feeling, you are put into the same category as the down-n-out street vagrant whose addiction to crack cocaine has all but ended their life.
It's just not the same, but the courts mandate recovery treatment for every individual struggling with substance abuse or alcohol dependence as if it is.
Let's face it. For most people, using drugs started off as being fun, allowed you to forget your problems, and at least temporarily made you feel good. Nobody gets hooked on eating celery. But the continued use of the elixir, in the face of other parts of one's life going south, is still surprisingly common and ego-syntonic. Meaning that the ingestion of the drug is compatible with one's ideal self-image. The needs and goals of the individual therefore become the impetus to take more drugs.
But unfortunately, the only treatment that the courts will remand you to is an archaic, decades-old system focusing on a "religious solution" for a "medical disease." It is crucial to note that there are no medications or medical interventions that have shown any real promise for this so-called "medical disease."
This one-size-fits-all approach does not address the deeper emotional motivations of each individual¹s unique history, interacting with their biological propensities. Psychologically, the addict is in pain when they are not using, which fosters its continuation.
What other diseases can we point to that are ³managed² through a social support group or spiritual connections – as AA would have you believe is 100% effective and the only way to deal with the problem?
What other disease exists where the individual possesses the psychological will to either escalate or de-escalate the severity of their disease?
We must provide people with more choices of professional treatment with re-education to learn emotional skills of behavior change using modern secular approaches. It's not about group meetings, it's not about 12-step programs for most people. It's about getting your sh*t together psychologically. Only through the journey of self-realization that comes from that awareness, can it be more likely to master, control and change your inclinations, than to be a slave to them.
Just try telling that to a judge.
I want to believe there is hope for Lindsay and Paris to overcome their personal problems – and all of us who cannot control our urge to self-medicate. But the judicial system must understand that the answer is not going to be found by looking at addictive behaviors only through the disease perspective.