Addiction in Society

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

The Arrogance of the Disease Theory of Addiction

We'll jail you and take your child if you claim you quit an addiction!

The New York Times is dealing with Alicia Beltran's law suit against the state of Wisconsin this way: "Case Explores Rights of Fetus Versus Mother.

Here is the factual basis for the case:

"Alicia Beltran cried with fear and disbelief when county sheriffs surrounded her home on July 18 and took her in handcuffs to a holding cell.

She was 14 weeks pregnant and thought she had done the right thing when, at a prenatal checkup, she described a pill addiction the previous year and said she had ended it on her own—something later verified by a urine test. But now an apparently skeptical doctor and a social worker accused her of endangering her unborn child because she had refused to accept their order to start on an anti-addiction drug.

Ms. Beltran, 28, was taken in shackles before a family court commissioner who, she says, brushed aside her pleas for a lawyer. To her astonishment, the court had already appointed a legal guardian for the fetus."

In other words, according to the Times and Beltran's law suit, who is looking after the rights of the mother? But what this case is really about is the arrogance of the disease theory of addiction. A woman who has no indication that she is currently using drugs is treated like an addict because she had the nerve to quit her prior drug use on her own!

Everyone—that is, everyone who believes in the disease theory, including not only this doctor and social worker, but virtually the whole of American addiction medicine—-knows it's impossible to do that. And, even if she had quit, the disease theory says that once an addict always an addict. (So much for the merciful, non-moralistic, accepting attitude of the disease approach—that's only for those who fulfill the disease theory requirement of promising to be addicted forever.)

Of course, this teaches anyone who has quit an addiction without calling attention to themselves that they should never, ever reveal that fact, thus contributing to the collosal misapprehension that people don't regularly quit drug and other addictions on their own. They do.  (What if Ms. Beltran quit smoking by herself?)

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P.S. A comment (nice line, "I need a detox from this way of thinking")

Subject: Rehab from Rehab
I have been off of opiates for 16 months. I could not get into the step thing. I went to rehab and it scared the hell out of me. I never want to take an opiate again, but I would like to have a beer once in a while. But I am scared I am going to relapse like they said I would in rehab. One counselor told me if I did not go to AA/NA I would relapse and die eventually. Another therapist I went to independently said if I did not go to NA I was eventually going to get so anxious I would relapse. So now I wake up every morning thinking I am going to relapse and I get super paranoid. Another side of me says maybe they are right you are thinking about drugs so much because you are a drug addict and you will constantly think about opiates the rest of your life without NA or the steps. I just do not want to do the steps. I need a detox from this way of thinking. Anyone else run into this struggle?

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

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