Addiction Treatment and 12-Step in the Media

You can’t turn on a sit-com, drama series, or watch a movie without hearing about someone who is an “alcoholic” going to AA or a drug addict who just got out of another treatment program and must go to meetings. Some of the most popular series of the 21st century have all incorporated this issue into their story lines or have dealt with addiction and 12 Step programs in at least one episode. And what is even worse is the plethora of reality shows that exploit those struggling with “addiction.” Between Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew, and many others who claim to be addiction experts, the level of misinformation fed to the general population is staggering. This leads to the question, what do people really know about substance use, substance abuse, and the so-called disease of addiction?

There is a common misconception that is absolutely pervasive in our culture that there is a disease that takes away our free-will, rendering us powerless over thought and action with respect to drinking, drug using, eating, gambling, or any number of vices with which people struggle. If there really was a disease like that, it would be terrifying, wouldn’t it? Think about it for a moment: it takes away an individual’s free-will and choice. This disease actually takes people hostage. Victims of the disease report that they cannot stop certain behaviors no matter how hard they try, no matter how committed they may be to stopping. Whether the behavior is drinking alcohol, smoking, taking drugs, shopping, sex, watching internet pornography, eating, etc., millions of people believe that there is line people cross where they lose the power of choice.

While millions may believe this, few have used common sense to ask the question, if this were actually true, then what about the millions of people who struggle then spontaneously stop these behaviors and change their lives? What about the thousands of “crack addicts” who go on a binge on Friday night and show up for work on Monday, not high on crack? What about those who use heroin for 10 years and then one day put it down simply because it no longer fits in with their goals and their lifestyle? You see these are the stories that the addiction treatment community ignores, yet they are the vast majority.

According to NIDA’s Monitoring the Future Surveys, heavy drug and alcohol use peaks between 18 and 24 years of age and systematically declines as people age. In other words, people quite literally mature out of heavy substance use. They start their careers and families, and the party lifestyle no longer suits their needs. But there are those few who try to hang on to instant gratification, and they may begin experiencing negative consequences but still continue those behaviors. Some may try to break free from the cycle of substance use on their own and if they are not successful, they seek help, but these people are just a small percentage of the many that do stop on their own.

Why does the media paint a picture that people literally lose control? The answer is simple and will come as no surprise to anyone – money. The alcohol and drug treatment industry is a multi-billion dollar industry in this country which continues to grow. The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services  (OASAS) budget for 2018 was almost $700 million dollars, and this is simply the regulatory agency that oversees treatment centers in New York State. The world famous  Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation had a revenue stream of over $223 million dollars in 2015. And the alleged “philanthropic” organization Alcoholics Anonoymous World Services, Inc. reported income in 2015 of  $9.7 million with $1.5 million dollars reported as pure profit. You see making people dependent is big, big business and those that invested, and continue to invest, in the addiction disease hoax know it.

Perpetuating the notion of powerlessness and disease not only makes money for the drug treatment industry but it also sells billions in medications for the pharmaceutical companies, and now it is a cultural phenomenon that has crept onto our television sets and into our homes, schools and communities. When one dares to question the disease theory, even to those with no investment, pop-culture prevails and facts tend to be no match for beliefs. Beliefs, whether they are right or wrong, are incredibly powerful motivators, and those with strong beliefs often close their minds to alternative points of view. Remember there was a time when everyone believed that the world was flat and if you sailed to the edge you would fall off. Seems absurd now, doesn’t it…