When Holiday Cheer Gets Out of Hand. 3 Strategies to Keep You and Your Loved One Off the Naughty List

When Holiday Cheer Gets Out of Hand - There are 3 Strategies to Keep You and Your Loved One Off the Naughty List

3 Strategies You Can Use These Holidays

For many people, the holiday season holds memories of celebrations past and anticipation of new memories to share together. For some, the holidays can feel like an obstacle course through a minefield. If you have a loved one who uses drugs or alcohol to excess frequently, you may be concerned that the holiday atmosphere will give them yet another reason to be a little too “merry” this holiday season while you deal with the aftermath. It can make you dread the rounds of holiday parties and cheer that, for you and your loved one, can seem to spell trouble. This holiday season can be different for you if you’re ready to consider some different options for the season.

For some, the swirl of the holiday season can bring up anxiety that a loved one may overindulge in holiday cheer at holiday and office parties or family celebrations. You can help reduce your holiday stress and that of your loved one just by unlearning some substance use myths and approaching the situation from a different perspective.

Get Educated and Let Go of Myths and Misinformation-

Our culture is rife with movies, television shows, and cultural references to substance use and how it affects people but much of it is wrong or overstated. We refer to these ideas as myths of substance use and addiction. Some of these myths have entered our collective cultural consciousness so deeply that they appear to be facts.

One of the most important myths to free you and your loved one from this holiday season is the idea that people use substances because they are compelled to do so. All substance use is a choice followed by behavior that acts on that choice. There are no cravings, compulsions, or triggers that force someone to use substances against their will. While it may seem disheartening to know that every use of substances was the purposeful decision of your loved one, it’s actually good news. If we were truly in the power of substances, there would be no way to change or move beyond addiction and yet millions of people do so every day.

You and your loved one can stop blaming the substance and own your choices. As someone who loves a heavy drinker or substance user, you need to know there is no all-powerful substance that makes your loved one choose to use. They use because they choose to do so and they can choose not to use.

Be Positive but Set Limits—limits that is on YOUR behavior!

You can’t control your loved one. You can decide how you wish to behave and set limits on your choices. It’s not helpful to you or your loved one if you act in a threatening, cajoling, pleading, or coercing manner or try to manipulate your loved one’s behavior. Once you decide to give up the idea that you can control your loved one’s behavior, you may find a huge burden is lifted off both of you. You’re not responsible for their choices—they are.

Be Supportive –

Discuss ahead of time with your loved one what events they want to attend and the choices they want to make about substance use during those events. If they want to skip an event this year, it’s not the end of the world. Be supportive of their decisions, especially if they are dealing with new behaviors like moderating or abstinence. A change in behavior can take some adjusting, often more for the people around your loved one than for them.

You can be supportive by being positive about their new behavior choices. It’s not about deprivation at all. It’s all about them making the choice that has the greatest potential for the best outcomes for today and tomorrow. So have a game plan and stick to it!

If your loved one chooses to moderate their substance use this season, you can feel it’s a scary decision for them to make. You may be worried that they will overindulge as in times past. If your loved one is clear about why they want to use and have put aside myths of substance use and addiction, moderation is an option, however trying to moderate while hanging on to addiction and substance use myths is a recipe for disaster. Your loved one can’t successfully hold onto feelings of powerlessness and attempt to moderate—the two positions can’t work in practice.

If you or your loved one wants to end their dependence on these myths and really break free from addiction, consider reading The Freedom Model: Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap. It covers much more than we can go over in a single article and can help your loved one end their reliance on myths and misinformation and end addiction without fear. The Freedom Model can help you not to rely on myths and misinformation as well. More importantly, The Freedom Model can help you free yourself from the anxiety, guilt, and resentment that can be a part of loving someone who is a heavy substance user. Happy holidays to you and yours and enjoy the season with good will and cheer!

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Is Genetic Testing for Addiction Real or Just a Scam? There’s Still a Lot to Proove

Is Genetic Testing for Addiction Real or Just a Scam? There’s Still a Lot to Proove

Is Genetic Testing for Addiction Real or Just a Scam? There’s Still a Lot to Proove

 “Any expert in the field would tell you that genetic vulnerability to addiction would involve dozens of SNPs [single nucleotide polymorphisms]. The idea that anyone would say they are currently able to definitively evaluate an individual’s genetic vulnerability to addiction testing  by 1,2 or 20 variants is quite frankly absurd.”

Dr. Mary Jane Kreek, Addiction Genetics Researcher, Rockefeller University

We are nowhere near having any diagnostic test for a disease as complex as a psychiatric disorder. We don’t have a single group of genes to say this is the culprit, that this is what’s causing addiction.”

Dr. Zena Samaan,  Genetics Researcher, McMaster University

The above quotes are from addiction genetics researchers on the current state of our ability to use genetic testing to determine if an individual is susceptible to addiction. These quotes seem clear enough that currently we can’t test for addiction risk genetically and it will probably be a complex task, if it can ever be done. Then why are companies claiming they can provide such testing and charging thousands of dollars to do so?

There were two major companies marketing genetic testing for addiction susceptibility: Proove Biosciences and Canterbury Healthcare’s Innovative Medical Testing. In a highly unregulated market of genetic predictive testing for addiction with a host of dubious and exaggerated claims, how do you know if the test you’re taking can reliably provide the information you are seeking or is just an expensive fraud?

The federal government is beginning to share these concerns with an anxious public, if a raid on Proove Biosciences offices in August 2017 is any indication. While testing to determine if you could end up addicted to drugs or alcohol sounds helpful on the face of it, unreliable or even worthless results could actually do more harm than good. If many genetic researchers and experts are saying the science isn’t there yet to make such testing reliable, what are these companies selling and for what purposes?

In 2015 alone, 318 physicians ordered 197,000 reports from Proove, including the Proove Pain Perception Test, Proove Opioid Response, Proove Opioid Risk Profile, Proove Drug Metabolism Test, and others. When the out-of-network cost for a Proove test is $1000 and in-network of $100, without including co-pays or deductibles, it’s easy to see how Proove took in $28 million dollars in revenue last year. The questions remain: are these testing results valid and reliable and if so, what can the information tell us about the prediction of addiction risk for any individual?

Federal Raid on Proove Biosciences Forces Company into Receivership

Proove Biosciences shut down at the end of August 2017 and was placed into court-ordered receivership for restructuring and asset sale. This move comes after a raid in June by FBI and Department of Health and Human Services agents on Proove’s corporate offices in Irvine, California where truckloads of documents were seized in pursuit of a criminal investigation. Proove’s founder and CEO, Brian Meshkin, was removed and GlassRatner Advisory & Capital Group’s Michael Thatcher was appointed by the court as receiver. Meshkin started Proove in 2009 with his own funds but reached out to Leavitt Equity Partners in 2015 for an initial infusion of $3.5 million dollars of funding to expand its market reach.

Michael Leavitt, former Utah governor and former head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, heads Leavitt Equity Partners. Leavitt also had a seat on Proove’s board of directors after the group’s investment. Leavitt requested the receivership after reports came to light of the company’s exaggerated scientific claims regarding its genetic testing for addiction, unethical and possibly illegal business practices to promote unnecessary testing, and kickback schemes in the form of “research fees”   for participating physicians.

Was Proove Really Testing for Addiction?

It’s a fairly safe bet that the federal government will be pursuing charges against Proove regarding their business practices and validity of their testing products. Proove was providing, among other genetic prediction tests, the Proove Opioid Risk Profile, determined by a cheek swab for DNA paired with a 6-question patient survey of psychosocial factors on an individual’s past history of depression and substance abuse.

The questionnaire is drawn from the Opioid Risk Tool (ORT), a widely used addiction screen, developed by Dr. Lynn Webster, a board member of Proove. While the ORT is widely used, it is a self-administered survey instrument that has the limitations of any self-survey compounded by the human predilection to underestimate or hide behavior that is negative, shameful, or displeasing to others, a behavior that can skew results. Meshkin, former CEO and founder of Proove contended the combination of the objective genetic test results would balance the subjective ORT results and produce a more reliable predictive instrument.

The DNA from the cheek swab is tested for 12 gene variants, also known as SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms), that may influence the brain’s reward pathway, a system thought to have some effect on an individual’s susceptibility to addiction. The test results are run through an algorithm process developed by Proove to combine the ORT data with the DNA testing results to place patients in low, moderate, or high risk category for addiction.

As Dr. Eduardo Butelman, an addiction researcher at Rockefeller University, stated,

There are no data on how you can build a risk score by combining all of those [SNPs] together and no one has shown mathematically how you can combine that genetic information with environmental information.”

Current genetic science doesn’t establish reliably and replicably what data should be tested for and how the data should be combined to produce a predictive result of addiction susceptibility, assuming, of course, that genetic testing can test for addiction risk. The science of genetic testing for multivariate issues, like addiction, hasn’t been established when we don’t even know what we’re looking for or if it can be tested genetically at all.

Did Your Doctor Sell You Out to Proove?

Despite this lack of data, Proove testing has been in use at National Spine and Pain Centers, University of Southern California Pain Center Keck School of Medicine Pain Management Center, and Hoag Orthopedic Institute, as well as many private clinics and physicians offices nationwide. Proove has claimed a 93-96% accuracy for their predictive testing for addiction risk without producing a database of referential information to back up these claims. Supporting data cited by Meshkin for the validity of its testing process has been called into question. The data to support Proove’s research and testing was disavowed by both Dr. Eric Fung, the former chief scientific officer of Proove, and Dr. Daniel Schwartz, Proove’s former research and development director of Proove.

Former Proove employees have claimed Proove representatives in clinics and doctors’ offices were encouraged to push for unnecessary testing to increase company revenue, and that these test results were often contradictory and/or falsified. Rhonda Frantz-Smith, former senior manager at Proove, has stated Meshkin wanted all patients tested for addiction susceptibility in clinics and doctors’ offices that worked with Proove, whether they needed it or not.

Canterbury Keeping Mum on  How and What They Test for  Addiction

In case you’re thinking about heading to Canterbury for your genetic addiction testing, you might want to consider that Canterbury declines to disclose any of their testing process at all. Canterbury has focused their marketing on helping employers reduce the risk and cost of workmen’s compensation. Their selling point is to attempt to predict addiction risk and thus avoid prescribing narcotics to employees with a high risk for developing addiction.

The company provides no information on the gene variants it screens for nor whether it takes into account the many psychosocial and environmental factors that scientists believe contribute 40-60% of addiction risk, if it even can be predicted. Most addiction and genetic authorities agree that prediction of addiction risk is multifactoral in nature and we can’t reliably assess that risk through genetic testing now. With the complexity of factors involved, it may not ever be possible to test genetically for such risk.

LDTs: Growing Without Any Regulation- A Modern Medicine Show?

Many genetic tests, including addiction risk assessments, falls under the FDA category of laboratory-derived tests (LDT). LDTs are largely unregulated and there may be as many as 60,000 or more of these tests available commercially. The LDT category was developed in 1976 as somewhat of a catchall and long before genetic testing was viable at all.

The FDA has no real structure to follow or ability to regulate the LDT category. Historically, tests in LDT category have fallen into a hands-off observer mode. The FDA had promised that it would develop a regulatory pathway for this exploding field for 2010, but it has yet to do so. Currently, the FDA specifically regulates testing for disorders with a defined inheritance pattern and diagnostic tests to help predict patient response to drugs in terms of sensitivities and effectiveness. These tests have followed a standard device approval pathway and, since the testing issues for these tests are relatively uncomplicated, this is appropriate.

Genetics Experts Say Don’t Fall for Addiction Testing

Multifactorial testing for issues like addiction potentially could include several variants that may correlate with addiction risk, probable unknown variants, and the interpretation and integration of psychosocial factors into the test results to even approximate a valid outcome. At present, several factors complicate the validity and reliability of such testing, including a lack of data on such testing’s ability to accurately predict addiction risk and a lack of replicable results for this type of testing.

Another concern with genetic testing for addiction susceptibility involves how the information is interpreted and used by the doctor and patient, especially as the testing at present has limited reliability and may not even be accurate. Jehannine Austin, past president of the National Society of Genetic Counselors and associate professor of psychiatry and medical genetics at the University of British Columbia, has stated concerns with using genetic testing currently to predict opioid addiction:

Opioid addiction, like most behavioral traits, is a very complex issue that is hugely unlikely to be comprehensively explained by a small set of genetic variations. Most human behaviors and common conditions like addictions seem to result from the combine effects of genes and experiences working together…I worry that this is too simple of a strategy to address the real issue.”

In addition, Dr. Austin expressed concerns that people would misinterpret the genetic role in addictions, if it exists, and that receiving any result, whether false negative or false positive, might overly influence their life decision making,

There is a danger associated with people assuming that any problems that they have with addictions are entirely genetically determined. It can lead to fatalism or overestimation of risk for children experiencing similar problems.”

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) put out a press release in May of 2014 touting research on a new test to predict an individual’s risk for alcoholism. It was composed of testing 11 genes reportedly linked to individuals who were having problems with alcohol use.

Cecile Janssens, a leading expert on risk prediction with DNA testing and researcher in translational epidemiology at Emory University, exposed the press release for inflating the value of the test. The actual predictive value of the test was the equivalent accuracy of a coin toss for predicting alcoholism as the difference between the alcoholic and control groups were so slight. The researchers were clear on this point in their article but the press release heralded a test that “may be possible someday for young people to take a blood test and learn if they’re susceptible to alcoholism.”

In fact, the collection of 11 genes does not predict alcoholism for groups or individuals. The test was an attempt to gather testing for genetic variations that were thought to occur in correlation with alcohol abuse. When the testing was analyzed, the differences between the control group with no alcohol issues and individuals with reported alcohol use problems were insignificant. The predictive ability of the test was negligible but the correct interpretation just wasn’t exciting enough to override the desire for a quick, simple test to predict addiction risk. The press release shamelessly promoted an inflated outcome and it was, of course, picked up by media as a step closer to addiction testing. When we prefer to print our desires rather than the science, as Dr. Janssens concludes, “that is pretty bad news”.

Diagnostic Accuracy and Innovation Act- Help Is Still in the Distant Future, If at All

In effort to rein in this unregulated field of LDTs, including genetic testing for addiction susceptibility, Representatives Diana DeGette of Colorado and Larry Bucshon, MD, of Indiana proposed the 215-page draft of the Diagnostic Accuracy and Innovation Act (DAIA) on March 21, 2017. Both representatives serve on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and are co-sponsoring the bill.

The bill would serve to create a new category of In Vitro Clinical Tests (IVCTs) as well as a new center for their regulation under the FDA. The bill’s potential is far reaching and could have a dramatic effect on many industries so it is moving with slow deliberation and extensive public comment. The fact that real regulation is being contemplated for this area for the first time since 1976 is, in itself, a move in the right direction.

The current bill excludes testing related to forensic, genealogical, and drugs of abuse (DOA) results and formulates a new structure where LDTs would be classified as high, moderate, and low risk testing. Some have expressed concerns that requiring significant oversight could slow down innovations and price small labs without substantial capital out of the LDT market in providing novel and unique testing.

Considering that available testing is being promoted as having validity and reliability with little or no data to substantiate these claims and is being used for significant medical treatment and lifestyle decision making, the free for all atmosphere of LDTs simply can’t continue.

Genetic Testing Today—We’re Preparing to Take Baby Steps

Genetic testing is a valuable tool and will likely grow in its reliability to predict and diagnose diseases, illnesses, and conditions of all sorts. Despite our advances, we are still working mainly in the dark. The genetic difference between any two random people is 99.9% the same. That 0.1% difference involves 3 million possible differences between each individual’s 3 billion base pairs of the DNA sequence. Currently, genetic researchers have only determined 5% of the variances that may prove to have an influence on addiction risk. Or, put another way, “more than 95 percent of the genetic variance remains unaccounted for, indicating that most of the genetic risk factors for addiction have not been discovered yet.”

We know that DNA encodes many physical traits, illnesses, and diseases. We also surmise that certain conditions and diseases may have a susceptibility or trigger built into our genetic code. What those conditions and diseases are that have genetic influences and what constitutes the environmental and psychosocial triggers that may influence whether a condition or disease presents itself is largely speculative at the present.

When we consider that genetic testing beyond the relatively easy diagnostics for specific known mutations that lead to specific known outcomes is largely unknown, we realize we are in the prenatal stage of our genetic understanding. We are very unlikely to find ‘the’ addiction gene. If addiction can be predicted genetically, it will more likely be a mix of SNPs that may form very individual profiles along with the influence of personal and environmental factors.

At best, genetic researchers today feel genetic coding may have some influence on whether an individual experiences addiction in their life. The far greater influence-likely 40-60% of the influence- as to whether a person experiences alcohol or drug addiction remains environmental and psychosocial factors, including the influence of personal and cultural belief systems.

Would Knowing You Had the Addiction Gene Help? Study Shows Probably Not

If there were a test that could reliably tell you if you had a genetic predisposition to addiction, would you take it? Would knowing the results of addiction testing help you to control your behavior and avoid addiction entirely? Or would knowing the results make you feel doomed to a life of addiction and even disable any preventative behaviors and beliefs you held that protected you? Would you use the information to make life decisions that steered you away from addiction or plunge headlong into addiction with fatalistic abandon?

Having the knowledge of addiction through genetic testing may not even be useful to patients. A study at the University of Sydney found that telling people they possessed a gene for alcoholism resulted in an increase in their negative emotional feelings as well as feeling less in control of their drinking behavior (Dar-Nimrod, Zuckerman, and Doberstein, 2012). Prevention may actually be circumvented by genetic testing results if the individual forms or believes in a fatalistic view of genetic information over their own self regulation of behavior. These predictive test results shared with patients could actually disrupt their natural protection against addiction and their control of self-destructive behaviors.

At the present time, genetic testing to predict addiction risk is, at best, unreliable. There is evidence that knowledge of such risk could be damaging to some individuals if they have a fatalistic view of their ability to control their behavior and overly subscribe to the influence of genetics on complex life experiences like addiction. Rather than thinking of addiction as a binary choice of yes or no, our current knowledge of addiction shows we are heavily influenced by our environment and psychosocial factors. What we know and believe of substances and addiction, both personally and culturally, has far more influence on our relationship with substance use than genetics alone.

As humans, it is an almost universal wish to find simple, quick solutions to complex issues. Taking a blood test or a cheek swab and getting a quick result of how addiction may present in our lives sounds desirable at first. In reality, such information would paint a poor portrait. Our ability to assimilate accurate information on substances, cast aside addiction mythology, and ultimately utilize our self-awareness, behavioral control, and personal accountability will always trump any genetic variations that are merely a potential starting point in a chain of complex decisions and desires that form the heart of addiction behavior. Addiction is simply too complex a set of behaviors to be governed completely by genetics alone, if it is governed at all.

 

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The Addiction Disease Theory Created the Addiction Epidemic

Epidemic or Not - Addiction Treatment Hurts People and It’s Wrong

The Addiction Disease Theory Created the Addiction Epidemic

What if the current thinking on addiction is all wrong? What if addiction treatment and the currently accepted ideas about addiction are actually making the problem worse? Think about it for a moment. There are more treatment programs today than at any point in history, with new ones opening every day in this country. There is more funding being allocated at federal, state, and local government levels to combat addiction. Health insurance law now makes it mandatory for insurance to cover addiction treatment and, as it’s mandatory to purchase health insurance, more people are insured today than have been previously. So why, is the drug problem growing at such an alarming rate? Why are rates of opiate abuse, drug overdose, and death from substance use going up? And, more puzzling still, why are these rates highest among people that actually do receive treatment?

It’s important to understand the effects of a well-entrenched theoretical paradigm in order to fully begin to grasp what is happening in our society. The addiction disease paradigm has been slowly growing and building in this country since our Founding Fathers penned the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. Back then, intoxication was seen as sinful, and even moderate use of alcohol was believed to allow evil spirits to enter your body, thus the term “spirits” for alcohol. The addiction disease theory began as an explanation for what was seen as moral failings on the part of the individual. Those who liked intoxication were viewed as having poor moral character and were often shunned.

During the 1800’s and early 1900’s, people that had a strong preference for intoxication were seen as mentally ill, often were locked away in mental institutions, and were sometimes subjected to barbaric and bizarre treatments. These treatments attempted to make these individuals change their preference and stop liking intoxication. Certainly, none of the treatments worked or they would still be used today.

During the early 1930’s, right after the Great Depression, a down on his luck traveling salesman named Bill Wilson was drinking heavily. He began to believe that he was an alcoholic and, if he kept drinking, he would die. He may have been right about that. Alcohol is a poison that damages many organs in the body when used at high levels on a consistent basis. A man he knew approached him and took him through a Christian conversion of sorts, telling him the only cure for his alcoholism was God. The man told Bill that God was the key for him to overcome his moral weakness and defects of character that led him to drink so heavily. Thus, the movement of Alcoholics Anonymous was born, and the rest, as they say, is history.

In the decades that followed, the term “alcoholism” became fashionable and accepted, but it also began taking on a confusing and contradictory meaning. Is alcoholism a spiritual malady that must be treated with faith in God? Is it a genetic disorder? Is it a brain disease that needs to be treated with medication? Is it the result of character defects? Is it an allergy?

Billions of dollars have been spent researching problematic drinking and drug use. There are multiple government agencies whose sole purpose is to define and solve the public health problem known as addiction. These agencies exist at all levels of government. Sadly, even though all research data has contradicted the brain disease model, those operating within the now multi-billion dollar addiction disease paradigm have made sure to interpret research findings to fit within their theories. Now the preferred treatment for addiction is a bizarre combination of pharmaceuticals, therapies, and faith healing. This theoretical paradigm stays alive and well, in spite of the lack of science backing it.

There was a time when scientists believed the earth was flat, eating fatty foods caused heart disease, and that the human brain was fixed and unchangeable by a certain age. All of these paradigms are now disproven, but all were slow to change, even though the data was overwhelming that they were wrong. The same is now true of addiction. Sadly, until it changes, many people will continue to die needlessly, believing they are defective, immoral, sick, and unable to control their behavior.

Since the beginning of time, people have ingested substances to alter their reality. Some do it often because they find that they like it. Many that engage in substance use regularly develop a strong preference for it. They see being high or intoxicated as providing them some benefits. They see it as making their life happier or better in some way. Sometimes people develop belief systems around substances that aren’t entirely accurate but, to them, they are good reasons for use. For example, some people may believe that drinking alcohol relieves stress, or that it is the best way to relax or make them more sociable. Others believe using heroin is the best way for them to deal with emotional pain from trauma. There are people who believe that using cocaine makes them smarter, or that using cocaine or smoking meth is the best way for them to have a good time with friends.

Addiction treatment and the brain disease model does absolutely nothing to address people’s well thought out reasons for preferring substances, and, in fact, denies those reasons completely. It denies the very notion that people have a preference for intoxication. Instead, addiction treatment uses shame, guilt, and fear to force people into saying, and, in some cases, believing that they don’t like drinking or drug using and, as a result, they don’t know why they are doing it.

Even if you are not -and have never been- a substance user, I want you to think of an activity you enjoy and do or have done regularly that others may not understand. Perhaps you feel judged and don’t talk about it or admit it because you feel ashamed that you like it. Maybe you binge watch movies all weekend, play video games, or really love cats and have a lot of them. You might work very long hours because you love your job, or love the money you make from working such long hours. Perhaps you are an avid reader spending hours alone in your room engrossed in your books or you work out for several hours per day. Maybe you’re a vegan or you’re a true carnivore and eat meat with every meal.

There are all kinds of behaviors that others look at and judge to be wrong, immoral, or problematic. But, the fact is, we engage in those behaviors because we believe that they provide some benefit to us. We engage in them because we find some happiness doing it; because we’ve developed a preference for it. And then, somewhere down the road, that preference may change. Sometimes that change is because we’ve actively sought to change it, and sometimes our preferences simply change as our likes and priorities adjust as we age.

The key to overcoming addiction is simple: it is to change your preference. Even those few that find some success in AA, or other 12 Step groups, stay abstinent because they come to believe they can be happier without alcohol or drugs. For most, however, that belief of the possibility of change only remains for a brief time. The belief that addiction is a progressive, incurable brain disease that renders them forever powerless is always there. They make the choice not to use for a brief time and then succumb to the stronger belief being fed to them in meetings and therapy that they are flawed and weak. When you combine that idea of being forever sick with the belief in the powerful allure of alcohol and drugs, their preference for substance use may remain intact for years because it was never directly addressed or even acknowledged. When substance users go back to using, as most do, after going to treatment or entering 12 Step groups, it’s seen as a relapse into a diseased state, rather than a completely voluntary behavior based their intact preference for intoxication.

What you don’t know is that most people (90%) simply stop their addictions and problematic substance use on their own. Most do so with no treatment whatsoever. Those people simply change their preference and move on with their lives. Once exposed to treatment, support groups, and the brain disease model of addiction, a needless, lifelong struggle begins, and far too often, it ends with an untimely death.

Addiction is not a disease and teaching people it is, through treatment, education, and propaganda, is literally creating an addiction epidemic. Prohibition of substance use is based on erroneous information about the alluring power of drugs and has created a black market that leads to death and destruction, just as it did with alcohol a century ago. The key to solving our public health crisis is to abandon the current accepted but flawed, disproven paradigm and look at the actual science. No one is controlled by drugs or alcohol. All people have the power to change their preferences and behaviors. They just need the right information.

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Addiction isn’t a Disease and it’s not about Weakness Either

Addiction isn’t a Disease and it’s not about Weakness Either

“Addiction, it’s a disease.”
“No, it’s not. The person is just weak.”

Neither of these is true. But, these statements do spell out the confusion that surrounds the construct of addiction. Let me start by stating the truth – addiction is not a disease and it’s also not a matter of weakness.

To put the disease theory to rest, read the logic in the following statement. You do not get cancer on payday, and then when your money runs out, the cancer disappears. Yet, a drinker’s “disease” is characterized by this kind of silliness. Are we really to believe you can choose and unchoose cancer on a whim like you can when it comes to drinking and drugging? Real diseases don’t work that way. They kill you whether you like it or not. You have no choice. People who choose to go to the bar or crack house have a choice. That simple analogy puts this disease nonsense into a more realistic light.

Watching a person with a heroin habit seek their drug of choice in any number of very deliberate ways, ends the weakness argument quickly. “Addicts” and “alcoholics” are some of the craftiest, most determined individuals I’ve ever met when it comes to getting their alcohol and/or drugs. They’re obviously not weak.

Maybe a Brain Disease Then?

Scientific looking brain scans that show an “addicted” brain next to a healthy brain of someone who quit a month prior are the supposed “evidence” that shows the changes that have occurred in the “addicted” brain as a result of the substances that person habitually ingested. This “diseased brain” will now supposedly render them powerless to stop using substances. Being that this is the main symptom of the brain disease, that they cannot stop, one has to ask then, “How did the person with the ‘addicted and diseased’ brain stop?” Remember, there is a scan of that person’s healthy brain sitting right next to the “addicted brain “scan image. Think about that. The very scans used to demonstrate that the person has an altered brain which renders that individual powerless over substances proves just the opposite. We know this because we have that healthy scan sitting right next to the “addicted brain” scan that was taken at the height of the individuals “addiction.” So they did stop, and they stopped when they were most addicted according to the scans and the study! Put another way, how can it be that the addicted brain changed to a healthy brain, but only after quitting, when the theory states that at the height of this “disease” you can’t quit because your brain is altered and won’t let you quit?! I know, you might need to read that statement a few times because that is how the brain disease nonsense keeps chugging along – it’s cloaked in confusion and falsehoods.
Here is logic that makes more sense. Brains change constantly. It’s called the physical result of learning. It’s normal. Drinking and drugging, like driving a car, juggling, or walking, all change the brain. They are habits. Habits are learned. Habits are normal. It’s how humans work. Once you see “addiction” for what it really is, habits, then you can move past all this disease propaganda. The scans prove it.

Now to the Weakness Argument

“He is too weak in the mind to stop himself.” That is what we hear. We hear a drunk say “I can’t stop.” We hear the opiate user say they cannot get past withdrawal. But here are the facts (Slate, Scheeren, & Dunbar, 2017):

Now remember what the treatment advocates are saying. In no uncertain terms, they say that “addicts” can’t control themselves, and can’t stop using substances without treatment. A mountain of evidence says this is wrong. The studies above, as well as yearly surveys, show that over time, people naturally quit or reduce their substance use to non-problematic levels on their own. Most “addictions” start when people are in their early 20s, and more than half of them resolve by 30 years old. Problematic substance use rapidly declines with age. When researchers crunched these numbers in the NESARC data, figuring in the trends on age, they found that more than 9 out of 10 will eventually resolve their substance use problems – treated or not.

More precisely, the probability that a problematic substance user will resolve their problem for various substances is:

  1. Alcohol – 90.6%
  2. Marijuana – 97.2%
  3. Cocaine – 99.2%

(Heyman, 2013)

Although they didn’t offer a probability rate for heroin, we have no reason to believe it should be any different. 96% of heroin addicts were currently resolved in the NESARC data. This is similar to previous data on heroin use. For example, a study on Vietnam vets diagnosed as heroin dependent found that within the first 3 years after their return to the States about 88% quit without relapse, and in a 24 year long follow up, 96% had eventually resolved their problems. You should also know that only 2% of those vets received treatment! (Robins, 1993)

If those who drink and/or drug heavy and habitually stop at the rate of over 90%, then no one can say they are weak. I realize these facts and figures may surprise you. That’s simply because the talking heads, addiction researchers at large, and politicians focus only on the small percentage that continue to use, rather than focusing on the vast majority who move past dependency. Here it is in a nutshell. If everyone who ever had a problem with substances was unable to stop and was “weak” the rate of death from substance use would be staggering! But it’s not. It’s much less than 1% of the population. It is not a matter of weakness, it’s a matter of choices; choices that in fact, very few people make.

But, are they weak when they’re using and strong when they quit? Are those who never quit weak? Well, these questions rest on the premise that there is some force pushing people to use, and which they must have the strength to resist. Ask yourself this – do you really think the average person is walking around every day of their life strongly resisting a force pushing them to drink several bottles of wine or shoot up multiple bags of heroin? These ideas probably don’t cross their mind at all. They’re not being “strong”. They just don’t want to do these things. Likewise, the so-called addict isn’t being weak when they use, they are simply doing what they want to do, based on the fact that they see substance use as an activity that’ll make them feel how they want to feel. Nor are they being strong when they quit or reduce their substance use, they simply come to see quitting or moderate use as behaviors that will make them feel how they want to feel. Some people maintain the view throughout their life that they need heavy substance to feel how they want to feel. It doesn’t mean they’re weak. As we mentioned earlier, they then strongly pursue substances. They aren’t crumbling under a force. They are doing what they want to do. Anybody can change what they want in this realm, but unfortunately, many are distracted from examining their wants because they’re too busy trying to fight an imaginary disease or overpowering force that they’ve been taught to blame for their own cognitively created desires.

References:
Heyman, G. M. (2013). Quitting drugs: Quantitative and qualitative features. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 9(1), 29–59. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032511-143041

Robins, L. N. (1993). The Sixth Thomas James Okey Memorial Lecture. Vietnam veterans’ rapid recovery from heroin addiction: A fluke or normal expectation? Addiction, 88(8), 1041–1054.
Slate,S., Scheeren, M., & Dunbar M.(2017). The Freedom Model. Manuscript in preparation.

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