Once an addict, always an addict – right? @GGrucilla calls bullshit on some common 'armchair diagnoses' and myths about addiction. Our latest #mattersofsubstance, out now https://t.co/BbjElc0POA pic.twitter.com/wNhm0Wv2Eu
— NZ Drug Foundation (@nzdrug) November 27, 2018
When I first reached out for support, more often than not, I was told that I must surrender to the unregulated AA model of abstinence, commit to the 12-step programme and follow each step with military precision or I could look forward to an early death or – at the very least – no real hope of ever getting sober. When I admitted myself into respite for social detox last year, I had a very positive experience, but there was also some problematic thinking floating around that I couldn’t ignore. One clinician told me that, in her experience, if an addict “doesn’t find God and stick to the AA model” then “relapse is inevitable”.
I walked away from this conversation quietly muttering to myself, “But what about the science?” This same clinician echoed Karr’s tweets saying that addiction is progressive and nearly always fatal. (I want to add that this clinician also gave great advice and support. However, we all hold our own biased and sometimes unhelpful views.)
The thing is neither this clinician’s, Towle’s nor Karr’s assertions are based on any hard evidence, just their theories. The Recovery Research Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital undertook a massive study into addiction and recovery in 2016. It sampled more than 25,000 people who identified as having a moderate to serious substance abuse issue, and half of those who responded said they recovered from addiction without formal treatment or external support. Only 46 percent of those who had overcome serious addictions to alcohol and/or drugs identified as being in recovery. That means 54 percent rejected the idea that addiction is a lifelong disease.