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What Does Rehab Teach Addicts?

Instead of helping addicts, rehabs use them as examples

This post is in response to
Rehab as Cause of Death

Although Cory Montieth is widely reported to have died of a heroin overdose, radical drug researcher Carl Hart finds this highy unlikely.  Nearly all such cases, as I have reported, are the result of combining heroin and other "downer" drugs—and primarily alcohol—a lethal mix that depresses the nervous system in ways that reinforce and exacerbate the effects of either drug alone.  Was Montieth aware that using heroin and alcohol together was a bad idea? Having just emerged from drug and alcohol treatment at the Betty Ford Center had he been informed to avoid such a combination?

In fact, even after he died, users and the public alike were not informed about this risky behavior.  Instead, we got the message: “Let Cory stand as an example, so that everybody will learn how bad addiction is.” According to Dr. Marvin Seppala, the chief medical officer of perhaps America's top 12-step factory, Hazelden:

Anytime I hear about a death that may be linked to addiction, I am reminded that this is a misunderstood and deadly disease. Deaths caused by addiction have risen astronomically in the past decade. Drug overdose is now the No.1 cause of accidental death in the United States; more common than death by car accidents. . . .

It seems nearly impossible to believe that people with addiction would continue to use drugs and alcohol to the point of death, but that is what people with addiction do: They deny both the consequences and the risks of using.

But, wait, hasn't Hazelden been a leading instructor about addiction for a half century? Why then is "this disease" so misunderstood? Who is responsible, as Dr. Seppala indicates, that addiction has gotten worse in this time?  I indicate in the Huffington Post that it is the current addiction paradigm and treatment regime, which the U.S. is spreading worldwide.

And how could Montieth be denying "both the consequences and the risks of using" when he had just voluntarily undergone treatment at a leading rehab, one not unlike Hazelden?  Hazelden and its ilk have thus begun the process which 12-step and private treatment enterprises have mastered almost as well as do religions (with which they share so many traits): "all success is unto us, all failure is due to the victims."

Thus, in response to my post at PT Blogs about the remarkably high mortality rate we have seen following rehab-type treatment (including, in addition to Montieth, Amy Winehouse and the five deaths reported in the three years Dr. Drew has operated "Celebrity Rehab"), a recovery booster wrote:

The fact that some people die after leaving treatment is because they choose to use and EVERY alcoholic knows to drink is to die. It's an advancement of their disease and NOT a failure of the treatment center or AA which has helped millions of people recover from alcohol addiction. Your article is so blatantly irresponsible and will lead to many not seeking help because of it. Shame on you!

Note how it is the dead people's fault for choosing wrongly, after being told they have an uncontrollable disease that means they have no choices in their life.  As I noted in my post: "the American recovery movement says addicts are as good as dead if they continue to use, then does everything it can to make sure that this happens." Standard addiction treatment is all about denying and abnegating the self: "Nothing," I said, "in American treatment is about addicts caring for themselves."

To which another commenter wrote this:

I've been a sober member of AA for over 20 years but more and more I now see how harmful its choke-hold on nearly all available treatment in this country is. People with addiction problems are assumed to be worthless, lying, unloving, and less than human because of how Bill Wilson viewed alcoholics in the Big Book back in 1938. Most women, and many men, come to AA already thinking they have no worth, then they are told to abolish their ego and constantly look for their defects and how every thought they have is probably selfish and self-centered with self-centered fear. After so many years of that a person can start assuming self-hatred is the mark of "recovery."

We are told in AA that to have one drink is as much of a relapse, failure, and loss of status as a week-long binge. And we are told that once we have the first drink we cannot stop. Is it surprising that a person who takes that first drink is quite likely to go on to consume a huge quantity of alcohol/drugs? If you are going to lose your "time" and have to "start over" and face shame in "the rooms" you might as well get your humiliation's worth, and they said you couldn't do any different anyway.

What Montieth was told in treatment was never to use—or drink—again: a road most graduates fail at some point to adhere to. Montieth should have learned how to stay alive and to avoid the narcotics-alcohol combination as an essential life-preserving fact in drug treatment. That he wasn't prepared with this information is because rehab is about setting people up for failure, then blaming them for it, even when it results in death.

And, so, what is Hazelden’s and the recovery movement's message to addicts based on Cory Montieth's story, as they both blame him for his death, and emblemize him for it?

That they must—they should—follow his path.

Follow Stanton on Twitter and at his Life Process Program