Almost every week a new book appears in print on the memoirs of a person in recovery. Others are written by family members who either lost a loved one to alcoholism or drug addiction or how their loved one was saved after failing multiple treatments.  The blogosphere is filled with blogs on every conceivable aspect of alcoholism or drug addiction. Some of the books and blogs are truly inspiring and the poignant stories of the loss of a child are heart-wrenching.  The goal in every case is to get the message to as many people as possible in the hope that others will benefit from their experience.If you happen to be a celebrity with a well-run public relations campaign, you are likely to be on the top talk shows and news channels.

Other people go further by establishing foundations and many will go into the field of addiction treatment as counselors, social workers, therapists and even physicians.  Others will go even further by starting their own treatment programs. Therefore, it is not surprising that the significant majority of professionals in this field are in recovery and exert considerable influence on treatment policy and direction. It is only natural that their views are shaped by their own experience of getting into addictions and their experiences of recovery.

The social media outlets are a great conduit to get a message out without any checks on facts or accuracies. Scholarship and accuracy of facts are trumped by the emotion of the story. The editorial guidance given to the author is often directed at maximizing the sale of the book or getting more print, radio and television appearances.  It often starts with book titles using words like ‘cure’, ‘end of addiction’, and  ‘drink your way sober’! The titles are designed to sell more books, but end up doing great disservice to patients and their families while giving our field a bad name.

The inaccuracies are not deliberate or made up, as was the case with the book: In a Million Pieces. There is a tendency to water down and distil a highly complex disease involving genes, neurochemistry, behavior, and emotion to short sound bites. The writers, well-meaning in their goals of helping others, have done little to answer the hard questions that have kept over 20 million people impacted by alcohol and drugs outside the mainstream of medical treatment.  The War on Drugs should be waged on treatments that are ineffective and sometimes fraudulent, where failure is always blamed on the patient.  The movement towards drug legalization is a direct result of not just the failed policies of the War on Drugs, but also the failure of the multi-billion dollar drug treatment industry to provide effective treatments.  We need to make a concerted effort to get answers to some of the questions which I believe have kept our field stigmatized and in a state of isolation. Here is list of issues that need some hard and honest answers:

  • The high failure rates for patients returning home from residential treatment.

  • A definition of alcohol and drug ‘rehabilitation’.

  • The urgent need to standardize treatment of addictive disorders similar to other chronic illnesses, such as diabetes.

  • The indifference of the medical community towards addictive disorders.

  • The indifference, and at times hostility, towards medical treatment for addictive disorders by the  treatment community.

  • The restrictions placed on methadone clinics and Suboxone.

  • Getting methadone clinics to utilize all medications approved by the FDA for the treatment of opioid addiction.

  • The appropriate role of anti-craving medications.

  • Presently less than ten percent of the 20 million people affected by addictive disorders receive medications.

The publications of memoirs certainly help to raise awareness of the devastation caused by alcohol and drug addiction within our society. The interviews, talks, and blogs focus on the emotional, gut-wrenching aspects of  lost youth, overdoses, arrests, running away, and criticism of the failure of the treatment field. However, there are few concrete suggestions on bringing a self-isolated field  into the mainstream  of medicine. Unless we honestly and dispassionately answer these questions and demand treatments that have been scientifically proven to work, we are doomed to be at the bottom of the treatment pyramid.

Percy Menzies is the President of the Assisted Recovery Centers of America, a treatment center based in St. Louis (web address: arcamidwest.com).  He can be contacted at: percymenzies@arcamidwest.com

 

 

%d bloggers like this: