Although the American Medical Association voted to call alcoholism a disease, thus enabling physicians to obtain insurance money for trying to help alcoholics, a large proportion of physicians reject the disease theory of alcoholism. Indeed, the medical field has failed to develop any effective treatment and surveys reveal that physicians recognize this failure. Most doctors deal with alcoholics by referring them to Alcoholics Anonymous, a group that uses religion or spirituality as the basis for its program.
Nation-wide research conducted and reported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism demonstrates that those who attend AA are less likely to either abstain or to drink in moderation than are those who simply try on their own without any outside help. In short, AA’s program of teaching powerlessness, the doctrine of loss of control, the need to submit to God or a Higher Power, the chronic nature of alcoholism, and so on actually appears to reduce natural remission. Not surprisingly, rehabs that use the twelve steps are generally just as ineffective.
Scientific evidence does not supporty the theory that alcoholism or addictions are diseases whereas there is strong evidence that they are not. Of course, heavy alcohol or drug use can cause diseases.
There is no evience that individual psychotherapy is any more effective for alcoholics or addicts than receiving no treatment whatsoever. The same is true of homeopathy, naturopathy, acupuncture, reflexology, equine therapy, hypnotherapy, orthomolecular medicine, nutritional therapy, herbal medicine, Eastern medicine, yoga, or any other treatment or therapy. That’s because alcoholism and addiction are not diseases.
People drink and use substances because, at least in the short run, they enjoy their effects. Users come to associate certain substances, environments, friends, and activiteis with pleasure. Neuroscience has demonstrated that, through neuroplasticity, the brain modifies itself as a result of our repeated thoughts and this promotes habitual behaviors. These behaviors result from choices and the more frequently unwise choices are made, the easier they are to make again and again.
However, people can learn to make different choices and “re-program” their own brains to make better choices; that is, to make choices that make them happier in the long run.
Over twenty years ago, the non-profit Baldwin Research Institute developed an educational/social program now called Cognitive Behavioral Education used at its non-religious St. Jude retreats. The long term success of the program (at least 62%) is calculated and reported by outside professional research organizations.