Once an alcoholic …
“The Truth About Addiction” by Stanton Peele (June) is irresponsible, unscientific and dangerous in what it suggests to people suffering from addiction: Just stop! You can change! An alcoholic is always an alcoholic, just as a diabetic is always a diabetic. These people can be free of symptoms for extended periods, maybe the rest of their lives. But they are never “cured.” The risk is that their life-threatening symptoms can return. Your article ignores the genetic, physiological, chemical “science” of addiction, which exists as tangibly as it does for cancer. We are powerless over cancer, stroke, diabetes and addictions, but we can take responsibility to ask for help and improve our lives.
As a recovering alcoholic, I am horrified by the message that your article on addiction is sending. Your author, Stanton Peele, interprets addiction as a behavioral annoyance, rather than an American Medical Association-classified disease. The reason so many “problem” users are able to quit a drug of choice is that only 20 percent of the population is truly addicted, and the balance are able to clean up if warranted. “Real” addicts do not have this luxury. The problem with these types of studies is the lack of statistical data available from Alcoholics Anonymous (which holds the highest success rate) due to the anonymity tradition. To breezily concur that addicts simply need to change and conquer addiction on their own is dangerous, and will probably encourage people whose chief symptom is denial to continue to try moderation without abstinence. I just hope you didn’t cost too many lives.
Mountain View, CA
Stanton Peele responds: Alcoholics Anonymous is a universally known and valuable tool in the fight against alcoholism. Unfortunately, it is all that some people know, and worse, some people believe it to be the only way to fight alcohol and other addictions. The key question is: What percentage of people with drinking problems currently seek, and gain, help from AA or treatments based on it? People may propose different answers to this question, but it is certainly only a small minority. So what do we do for the rest–including those who do not respond to or are unwilling to try the 12 steps? The answer is that we have much of value for such individuals, as all professionals need to be aware.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Sussex Publishers, Inc.
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