Is addiction a progressive, incurable disease or is this a convenient label to keep a multi-billion dollar industry in business? Recently I attended the First Annual National Conference on Addictive Disorders held in Arlington, Virginia. This was my first conference of this kind within the treatment industry. As I kept hearing exciting new buzzwords such as “evidenced based solutions,” I wanted to see what type of evidence and what kind of solutions everyone is talking about. I thought perhaps there had been a breakthrough; and the long held beliefs and standards of practice that were clearly ineffective within the treatment industry would be abandoned for far more effective and helpful approaches. Instead what I found was an industry that had doubled down and was digging deeper into the abyss of failure. Rather than thinking “outside the box” and looking for entirely new theories and solutions, the industry has done what most will do when facing what they perceive to be an assault on their paradigm, they have dug in their heels and fabricated “proof” that they are right. Damn the ever mounting evidence to the contrary! People aren’t “recovering” from their “disease” not because our theories and methods are wrong or ineffective, they are not “recovering” because this mystical disease is just too powerful for anyone to find a cure! So what was the answer at this National Conference? Well, of course, it was more medications, nationalized healthcare, and isn’t it obvious, people need an entire lifetime of treatment if they are suffering from such a serious and dreadful incurable disease… How convenient for an industry absolutely dependent on the continuous failure of its clientele. And now big pharmaceuticals are getting a large piece of the action as they are releasing new, equally ineffective, medications to treat the “disease” at an alarming rate.

Meanwhile within the medical and mental health fields scientists, many physicians and mental health professionals not directly involved within the alcohol and drug treatment industry, are rethinking the idea that addiction is a disease at all, let alone an incurable disease. While addiction professionals will often compare addiction to diabetes, ask an endocrinologist about the vast differences. They will provide you with irrefutable evidence that the disease of diabetes is actually a disease. Remember, “addiction” actually goes away by making simple lifestyle changes; while diabetes does not. I can wake up and say I’m not going to use drugs today, but my mother cannot wake up and say I’m not going to have diabetes today — she can say I’m not going to have a donut, but even if she doesn’t eat that donut, she will still need to take her medication and monitor her blood sugar closely or she might die. There is no simple choice she can make that will make all of her diabetes go away. This fact is not lost on the majority of physicians in this country and around the world.

Before checking into a 28-day rehab that can run you $20,000, $30,000 or well in excess of $40,000, take away your freedom and strip you of your privacy; before going to your employer and telling them intimate details of your personal struggles; before turning over your confidentiality completely to your insurance company (records for going into drug treatment are available to future employers, the government, and basically anyone who knows how to work the internet); know that you have the power right now to change your own life forever! Just like the millions of people who put down cigarettes and quit smoking forever, this is not different. Set a date, make a commitment, enlist the help of those closest to you, make a plan and see it through. Changing a lifestyle behavior is only as hard as you perceive it will be. While AA will tell you there is no easier, softer way; there is — just do it.