Why We’re Losing the War on Addiction – Stanton Peele

Here is a link to the latest piece by Stanton Peele for the online journal called the influence which I am sure will interest many of you. http://theinfluence.org/why-were-losing-the-war-on-addiction/

I like the way that Stanton continues to challenge the way many people look at addiction and I think many more people could be helped if his methods were adopted instead of relying on the old 12 step model and using the disease theory of addiction.


Stanton Peele is a columnist for The Influence. He has been at the cutting-edge of addiction theory and practice since writing, with Archie Brodsky, Love and Addiction in 1975. He has since written numerous other books and developed the online Life Process Program. His latest book, with Ilse Thompson, is Recover! Stop Thinking Like an Addict. His website is Peele.net. Dr. Peele has won career achievement awards from the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies and the Drug Policy Alliance. You can follow him on Twitter: @speele5

Here is a section from the post

When I began focusing on addiction in the late 1960s, people would ask why I was interested in the subject. “We already know everything about addiction,” one medical student told me.

My answer was: “I want to work on something that will always be around.”

Beyond my wildest expectations, addiction has since then risen to the very center of America’s consciousness. And, of course, as Love and Addiction, my 1975 book with Archie Brodsky, expressed, addiction was not what was then being taught in medical school—a subject essentially limited to compulsive narcotics use.

Addiction is real, damaging and commonplace. Yet far from being the implacable external menace that is typically portrayed, addiction is best understood as a part of the normal range of human existence, steeped in ordinary human experience that results from social and psychological factors we can all recognize.

The most effective responses to addiction are therefore common-sense ones, based in the practical realities of people’s lives.

Witness, in contrast, the ineffectual flailings of those who can’t recognize these truths.

One expert source that sometimes seems to know better, and sometimes not, is the American Psychiatric Association. Since the APA released DSM-5, the fifth edition of its diagnostic manual of mental disorders, in 2013, many have commented on what is included as a disorder and what is not. Others note that the volume refuses to apply the term “addiction” to any of the 17 classes of substances it includes.

But, in keeping with the analysis of Love and Addiction that addiction is not a syndrome limited only to drug use, DSM does apply the term to a non-substance activity: gambling—and nonsensically, to gambling alone, of all of the human activities in the universe!

How bizarre, as reflected in the DSM chapter heading: “Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders.” Get it? There are substance disorders and—separate from those—there are addictive disorders. Well, one addictive disorder.

The gurus behind DSM-5 (chiefly, Charles O’Brien, addiction scientist supreme at the University of Pennsylvania) ruled out sex, love, shopping, eating, et al. and—for the time being (it’s on hold)—electronic devices and video games.

Perhaps, working late into the night, researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) will miraculously discover the video-game-addiction section of the brain, allowing O’Brien or his brain-disease successors to add, with a flourish,“videos/electronic devices” under “Addictive Disorders” when DSM is next revised!

I jest, of course. And I also jest that, now that the APA and NIDA have finally recognized that addiction is not limited exclusively to drugs, Archie and I will be awarded the Nobel Prize for having pointed this out in 1975.

We wrote then that addiction can be applied not only to any type of drug, but also to any type of compulsive personal involvement with destructive consequences.

The point, which I would hope is by now obvious, is that nothing is inherently addictive. Addiction is not a chemical reaction, but an experience characterized by the nature of people’s relationship to a specific involvement. As Archie and I put it, “addiction is not something mysterious, something about which our ordinary experience has nothing to say. It is a malignant outgrowth, an extreme, unhealthy manifestation, of normal human inclinations.”


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