Are Drug Addicts Worthless?

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Ohg Rea Tone is all or nothing. He is educated and opinionated, more clever than smart, sarcastic and forthright. He writes intuitively - often disregarding rules of composition. Comment on his posts - he will likely respond with characteristic humor or genuine empathy. He is the real-deal.

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Are Drug Addicts Worthless?

Well, that depends.  While using drugs that addict is worse than worthless.  While using an addict’s worth is in the negative numbers – they will lie and steal – to any one, any where, any time.  When not using they return to their normal human pain-in-the-ass personalities.  They are normal in the sense that humans are basically a pain-in-the-ass.  It is as if they have a mind of their own – they can’t be trained to anything that resembles predictability.

When we speak of an addict in this article we include alcoholics.  The problem of worth rests in the failure of recovery.  Alcoholics Anonymous has a success rate of less than twenty percent.  Most treatment centers have even less success.  If you ask AA or the treatment center what the problem is they will tell you it is the fault of the addict.  “They are just not ready.”

Modern treatment modalities are clearly failing this public health pandemic.  I submit that AA and the treatment centers are in a form of denial – the same accusation they make against their patients or clients or whatever they call their prospects.

In any other field of medicine these success rates would not be tolerated.  One might even suggest that the treatment process is worthless.  The addicts who succeed in breaking their cycle of addiction would probably have been as successful with out the treatment.  That may be a little unfair – Drug Treatment programs offer some useful education to the addict.  A 21-28 day program also helps the addict break some old habits (a habit is different than an addiction).

The value of programs like AA and Narcotics Anonymous is in the group therapy, and huge support networks that span the globe. These support systems are valuable because generally the addict’s family and friends are not sympathetic to their struggle.  We submit that the idea of group therapy is a direct result of Alcoholics Anonymous – a major contribution to psychotherapy.

The Twelve Step process is a form of education – but contains some of the basic principles of fanatical religious cults.  We are talking about confession and redemption – both common elements to Jim Jones in Jonestown and David Koresh of the Branch Davidians. These processes are frequently used to assault the self esteem of the recovering addict – to keep them down – to keep them dependent on the process.  Thus the process is self perpetuated.

So back to the original question – Are Addicts Worthless?  Properly dried and ground into dust with a little lye added they make a pretty good bar of soap.  They are useful in maintaining jobs in State Prison Systems.  Some people thought those last two sentences were humerous – others were nodding their agreement.

Weak wines and weak beers have been around for about ten thousand years.  Opium has been around as long but was considered a mild drug until the 1500’s – when the Chinese figured out that smoking it would magnify the effect.  The world of serious drug addiction can probably be traced back to that time period.  The Chinese became so frustrated with opium addicts that for a while they just shot the addicts on sight.  There was no hope.

Cocaine is a product of the cocoa leaf – a very mild narcotic when the leaf was chewed.  Chewing a cocoa leaf was like taking a coffee break – you get a little charge and keep on working.  In 1850 the cocaine powder was synthesized from the leaf.  By 1900 the world recognized the new miracle drug as the horror of powerful addiction.  Heroin was synthesized from opium in 1898 – and the world came crashing down for millions of new addicts.  Cocaine is an upper, Heroin is a downer – the two fundamental classes or narcotic drugs.

Alcohol and marijuana have about seven percent addiction rates – so they are more tolerated by society.  Cocaine, Heroin, and methamphetimines have addiction rates in the 90 percentile.  We are talking about a craving so powerful that every thing else in life is secondary – including family, friends, work, and even the addict’s own life.

It is said in the treatment and support group community that once and addict, always an addict.  This is not scientific fact – but is statistically correct. This simply means that clinical observation suggests a former addict cannot get near the substance of their desire without experiencing the pwoerful craving.  There are clinical studies which have identified specific brain chemicals affected by a variety of narcotics.

It seems anecdotally that something changes in the brain of the addict – once addicted.  The pleasure centers of the brain crave their past joy – and continually seek gratification.  No one really know why – there are several theories.

So again – back to the beginning question – Are Addicts Worthless?

The answer is that addicts can be free of their disability.  Modern treatment centers that insist on Twelve Step models – a sort of ‘one size fits all’ mentality – have poor success rates.  We can say that Twelve Step programs are effective for a part of the population – but we are unable to predict which part.

New studies are breaking through the myths of the past fifty years.  Three of the myths are central to the ineffective treatment of addicts.

  1. Addictive Personalities – this is recognized today as a myth.  Once the drug is removed the addicts seem to return to the broad spectrum of personalities of the rest of the population.
  2. Denial – new studies suggest that the denial function of addicts is not greater than in the general population.
  3. Confrontation is an effective counseling style – wrong again, in fact the brutal confrontation of treatment centers provokes normal defense responses which are mis-characterized as denial.

These myths are dominant in modern treatment programs – and these programs have poor success rates.  These programs blame the addict for the failure of treatment.  Who, I ask, is in denial?

Are drug addicts worthless?  Drug addicts are humans suffering a debilitating illness.  The solution is a renewed effort to find medical treatment processes that have much higher success rates.  The only way to succeed in this venture is for treatment programs to open their minds about the possibility of better practice.

And with drug addiction reaching pandemic proportions, we should begin today.

There Are 2 Responses So Far. »

  1. In defense of Alcoholics Anonymous – it is hardly a “cult” as you heavily imply. Attendance is always voluntary (unless you are ordered in by the courts, and have to get your sheet signed at the meeting – but I assure you there’s no one at the AA meeting keeping track. Confession and redemption? The Catholic Church has been using that for years. The guilt of a secret kept can torture a person, and a tortured alcoholic is sure to drink. Relief from that kind of guilt is necessary for a man to embark on a new path of sobriety. And you failed to mention “Amends” – we AA’s make practical reparations for our offenses as part of the program of recovery.

    AA does not claim a monopoly on recovery – in fact, it’s quite the opposite: AA’s own basic textbook, Alcoholics Anonymous (also known as the “Big Book”) states: “Upon therapy for the alcoholic himself, we surely have no monopoly. . . . Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little.” You cite the low percentage of recovered addicts; I submit that 20% is quite satisfactory for families who see their loved ones return to their lives as healthy, productive, non-using persons. I know my parents are grateful for my involvement in the program.

    The AA big book also speaks to the hypothetical scientific cure: “Neither does there appear to be any kind of treatment which will make alcoholics of our kind like other men. We have tried every imaginable remedy. In some instances there has been brief recovery, followed always by a still worse relapse. Physicians who are familiar with alcoholism agree there is no such thing as making a normal drinker out of an alcoholic. Science may one day accomplish this (method to achieve sobriety), but it hasn’t done so yet.” AA’s will be the first to cheer when science presents a cure for alcoholism, but in the meantime those of us who choose to stay sober will do so in the manner we know to be effective for ourselves. If the boat is filling with water, do you discard your small pail and complain loudly for lack of a pump? No, you use the little bucket to bail the water and stay afloat.

    And why complain of AA? AA is not affiliated with any outside organizations, has no opinions on outside issues, and is entirely self-supporting through our own, always voluntary, contributions. No corporate money. No government money.

    Treatment centers have their own positives and negatives. They, too, are unaffiliated with AA, except that AA supports carrying the message of recovery to the alcoholic who still suffers, oftentimes into treatment centers. There is no cash or influence otherwise exchanged – ever.

    AA has but one purpose: to achieve sobriety, and carry the message of sobriety to the alcoholic who still suffers. The organization is a unique one in the history of civilization. Author, do not condemn what you do not understand.

  2. Thank you for commenting – and you cite important passages from the Big Book. The problem with AA, as with the Catholic Church, is in the actual practice at the parish or group level.

    “Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery…” But if you jump out of a plane at 10,000 feet we suggest you take a parachute… Dumping guilt on anyone who flirts with alcohol is a central trait of many in recovery who refuse to walk across the hall to Alanon. In actual practice a form of the AA program is worshiped – as many cults worship their particular interpretation of the Bible.

    “We tip our hat to you… ” is lost on the self righteousness of many who no longer drink.

    AA, like many religions, enjoys about 15% of their attendance who actually seek spirituality. What we submit here is that the original concept of love and forgiveness has been replaced by power and control. How many sponsors think of themselves as the earthly God over the newcomer.

    “Take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth.”

    “Keep quite for about six months and you might learn something.”

    “He is back ‘out there,’ I guess he just was not ready.”

    The wisdom of the original AA program, as with the Bible, has been lost to the grandiosity of power and control. The same elements of cult leadership. AA, practiced with the innocence and humility of the founders, is a blessing in the life of anyone. That is also true of Christianity.

    AA changed the game of psychotherapy – and for this we should all be grateful. But the founders of AA never quit trying to learn – trying to be better people. There are a number of passages in the Big Book which cite the written works of others as a source of wisdom. But many AA groups discourage reading anything but AA approved literature. Many of the individual AA ‘Groups’ have become small cults, with bleeding deacons running the show.

    The point of the post was not to discredit AA – but to say that a 20% success rate is not good enough. The founders of AA would probably say that if you are only 20% successful at what you are doing you should probably look at yourself – and not place the blame on others.

    I believe that AA is a stepping stone to even more wisdom – but to close the door on anything but AA is contrary to the original intent of AA.

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