there seems to be much contradiction
about the disease concept of alcoholism...
The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, November 20, 2009. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.
United States Changes Its Mind on Addiction - It's Not a Chronic Brain Disease After All
Nora Volkow and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) insist, based on peering at MRIs, that addiction is a chronic brain disease. You know - you saw it on HBO, and your kids learn this in school.
But, as I point out to Nora, she's looking in the wrong place. If you examine actual human lives, addiction is an interaction between people and their worlds that changes with time.
Now the NIDA's sister organization - the NIAAA or National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (remember, Joe Biden wants to change the names of both organizations because he knows addiction is a disease) - agrees with me.
According to Dr. Mark Willenbring, director of treatment and recovery research at NIAAA, "We're on the cusp of some major advances in how we conceptualize alcoholism."
This discovery, which I have described for decades , is based on the most sophisticated study yet conducted of Americans' drinking histories. Called NESARC (National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions), the study questioned a random national sample of over 43,000 Americans about their lifetime and current drinking.
Of this group, almost 4,500 had been alcohol dependent (read alcoholic) at one point in their lives. And, although 70% had never been treated or gone to Alcoholics Anonymous, most had ceased their alcoholism - even though most had not stopped drinking!
|Past Year Status||Treated (n=1,205)||Untreated (n=3,217)|
|Drinking w/o dependence||36||64|
|Source: Dawson et al. (2005).|
About 30% of Americans had experienced some kind of alcohol disorder, including abuse along with dependence, but about 70% of those quit drinking or cut back to safe consumption patterns without treatment after four years or less.
Only a tiny minority (1%) fit the stereotypical image of someone with severe, recurring alcohol addiction that Alcoholics Anonymous, addiction disease proponents like Volkow, and American mythology consider typical. According to Willenbring, "It can be a chronic, relapsing disease. But it isn't usually that."
Take that, Nora!
According to the lead researcher on the project, Deborah Dawson, NESARC data show that alcohol use disorders are "less a mental disorder than a maladaptive pattern of behavior."
In a three-year follow-up of initial respondents, Dawson and her colleagues found that alcohol dependence was "strongly associated with changes in mental/psychological functioning." Alcohol dependence causes significant decreases in mental health and coping, but social functioning and mental health underwent "significant increases among those who achieved full and partial remission from dependence" (meaning alcoholics who continued drinking with either no, or reduced, problems).
Now comes the most amazing part. The increases in social functioning and mental health "were equally great for abstinent and nonabstinent remission from dependence, but improvements in bodily pain and general health were associated with nonabstinent remission only" (that means the alcoholics who reduced their drinking).
My Life Process Program is exclusively abstinence based - although we recognize the reality that lifetime abstinence rarely occurs. But government researchers - based on the best epidemiological research yet conducted - now inform us that people who recover without quitting drinking are healthier than those who quit altogether.