Addiction in Society

Addiction—the thematic malady for our society—entails every type of psychological and societal problem

The End of Addiction!

The scientific claim we will soon eliminate addiction.

All right class, listen up. Why did a panel of cardiologists recommend this week that the cholesterol drugs Vytorin and Zetia be used only as a last resort? After all, they have been shown to block the absorption of cholesterol through the intestine.

Because, class, a study of the drugs' users failed to find that they had less plaque in their arteries. Cardiologists now don't believe that the drugs will reduce heart disease and deaths. In other words, the science behind the drugs was great - it's just that they didn't accomplish anything.

Which brings us to the $100 million or so worth of research conducted on illicit drug use and addiction by the National Institute on Drug Abuse annually. NIDA-funded research has developed wonderful models of addiction and produced great images of brain activation due to cocaine and other drug use. It's fabulous, really.

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So fabulous that, within the last two years, Newsweek (March '08), Time (July '07), and The New York Times Magazine (June '06) have featured cover stories about how science is licking addiction. It is so great that we are eliminating drug abuse! However, Newsweek did also mention, "Between 2000 and 2006, the number of drug offenders in federal prison jumped 26 percent. . . An additional 250,000 are incarcerated in state facilities and. . . . the government has budgeted close to $13 billion for drug control, treatment and prevention."

So, there is still a little to do. Well, we hadn't discovered the source and cure for drug abuse and addiction until just now, right class? Let's give it a few years - the problem often gets worse just before we solve it.

But these new announcements in national magazines of the end of addiction aren't really new. Here's one that was written for the Saturday Review (class - that used to be a big periodical):

So far, researchers have carefully avoided hyperbole in their descriptions of the endorphins. But it's hard to leave out the exclamation points when you are talking about a veritable philosopher's stone - a group of substances that hold out the promise of alleviating, or even eliminating, such age-old medical bugaboos as pain, drug addiction, and, among other mental illnesses, schizophrenia.

That was written in 1977, over 30 years ago! What, class, addiction and mental illness haven't been eliminated? They haven't even declined? You mean, they're actually increasing?

I know, class, you feel sorry for whoever wrote this -- his reputation surely was ruined for making such off-base predictions. Never fear! The writer, neurologist Richard Restak, has had a distinguished career - most recently, he was president of the American Neuropsychiatric Association. His 2006 book, The Naked Brain, essentially repeated the predictions he made in Saturday Review four decades ago.

You see, class, there's no downside to saying we are just about to cure addiction and then being wrong. So what if they're a few years - okay, decades - off? All right, maybe centuries. In The New York Times Magazine article, one NIDA researcher claimed addiction would be eliminated in ten years! They'll just make new claims when the old ones come due. And who's going to point out how ridiculous their past predictions were and how fundamentally they misconceive addiction?

You can't fault people for being optimistic. It's those damn skeptics who bug people! The author of the Time article wrote a blog at the Time web site excoriating a psychiatrist, Dr. Sally Satel, for questioning the validity and value of the disease concept of addiction. He accused her of being a Luddite, a moralistic ignoramus.

The author of The New York Times Magazine piece, Benoit Denizet-Lewis -- a very nice man (I correspond with him) and excellent writer -- is scheduled to publish his book, America Anonymous (for which he received a $350,000 advance - what, I'm not jealous), later this year detailing all the advances in addictive medicine.

You ask what I think, class? I just teach here at Wallflower Community College - what does it matter what I think? Do you think kids today - you know, the ones addicted to the Internet and iPods, whose binge drinking and gambling habits prompt regular alarm calls - will be a less addicted generation than previous ones? Do you know the fastest growing drugs of abuse are prescription meds -- the ones that more and more kids are being administered at earlier and earlier ages.

Here's my theory, class (and don't tell the Wallflower admin I said this - I need the $2500 I make here): addiction is a societal marker, a way people in a given culture have of interpreting their experience. The more the idea of addiction spreads - the more young people are instructed that experiences they are regularly exposed to are too overpowering for them to manage - the more addicted they will be.

drunk manAnd the NIDA isn't really interested in - or a capable of understanding - the sources of addiction. They are a government-sanctioned way of distributing research money and warning people how dangerous drugs are - as though these are the only sources of addiction.

What's that - how long does the term paper have to be? However long. . . .

Bio: Stanton Peele, M.S., teaches addiction and home ec at Wallflower CC in South Dakota.

 

Stanton Peele, PhD, JD, is the author of Recover! He has been a pioneer in the addiction field since publication of Love and Addiction in 1975.

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