Tag Archives: Phillip Seymour Hoffman

Top posts of 2014: #12

Abstinence—The Only Way to Beat Addiction?

StrawmanWhat killed Philip Seymour Hoffman? According to Anne Fletcher, it wasn’t the doctor who prescribed him the pain medication that began his relapse, it wasn’t the prescribers of the combination of meds found in his body, it wasn’t his discontinuing the behaviors that maintained his recovery for 23 years, it wasn’t a drug dealer, and it wasn’t addiction itself.

According to her it was 12 step groups for promulgating an alleged myth:

This is exactly what happened when Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger, Corey Monteith, and most recently, Phillip Seymour Hoffman were found dead and alone. Scores of people most of us never hear about suffer a similar fate every year.

Why does this keep happening? One of the answers is that many people struggling with drug and alcohol problems have been “scared straight” into believing that abstinence is the only way out of addiction and that, once you are abstinent, a short-lived or even single incident of drinking or drugging again is a relapse. “If you use again,” you’re told, “you’ll pick up right where you left off.” Once “off the wagon,” standard practice with traditional 12-step approaches is to have you start counting abstinent days all over again, and you’re left with a sense that you’ve lost your accrued sober time.

She’s describing a theory often referred to as the “abstinence violation effect”. The argument is that the “one drink away from a drunk” message in 12 step groups is harmful and makes relapses worse than they might have been.

One problem. The theory is not supported by research. (See here and here. It hasn’t even held up with other behaviors.)

Two things are important here.

  • First, many people experience problems with drugs and alcohol without ever developing an addiction. Most of these people will stop and moderate on their own. These people are not addicts and their experience does not have anything to teach us about recovery from addiction.
  • Second, loss of control is the defining characteristic of addiction. The “one drink away from a drunk” message is a colloquial way of describing this feature of addiction.

Further, she characterizes AA as opposing moderation for problem drinkers, when AA literature itself says, “If anyone who is showing inability to control his drinking can do the right- about-face and drink like a gentleman, our hats are off to him.” 12 step groups believe that real alcoholics will be incapable of moderate drinking, but they are clear that they have no problem with people moderating, if they are able. This is a straw man.

We’re left to wonder why a best selling author and NY Times reporter would attack 12 step groups with a straw man argument and a long discredited theory.

via Abstinence—The Only Way to Beat Addiction? Part 1 | Psychology Today.

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OD Awareness and both/and approaches

NARCAN-KITYesterday was International Overdose Awareness Day. Where do we stand?

This crisis has brought some good policy changes. Naloxone distribution programs are spreading fast and good Samaritan laws are spreading too. These policy changes will undoubtedly save lives, and that’s important.

There’s also no doubt that there are a lot of deaths that these programs won’t prevent. Consider the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. As is common, he appears to have died while using along, which casts doubt on any suggestions that naloxone and good Samaritan laws would have saved him. Even for those they save, they don’t offer a way out of their suffering and a lives that they hate.

fr2plus-overview-main-450x330How are we doing in terms of access to treatment of adequate intensity and duration? We don’t have much in the way of statistics for that, but it’s save to say that we’re not doing so well. We’ve got models that work really well, but we only use them with health professionals, lawyers and pilots.

Too often, we’ve had one faction calling for more treatment and another calling for harm reduction.

Naloxone is not enough. And, even access to quality treatment of adequate duration and intensity were improved, we couldn’t engage and successfully treat everyone.

We need a both/and approach rather than an either/or approach. Let’s increase access to naloxone and make sure that every rescue is followed by the kind of care an addicted health professional would get.

 

 

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Hoffman and Free Will

images (2)Some writers are using Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death as an opportunity to attack the disease model and getting a lot of support from treatment critics.

Why would they pick an argument about the disease model and question the existence of loss of control after a man with everything to live for used heroin to his death despite efforts to stop?

I’ve addressed the matter in previous posts. Here are some highlights.

These objections seem to come down to philosophical questions about the role of free will. In a previous post I linked to a Points post that set up the issue nicely:

Although addiction may be defined and operationalized in a number of different ways, the heart and core of the concept lies in its implication of the loss of the ability to choose – that is, the loss of free will.  Hence, and logically, the concept of addiction also implies the actual existence of free will.  And there lies the rub.

The addiction concept repackages one of the Big Questions – free will and determinism – into a new and seemingly more manageable form.   But should we be entirely comfortable with the tacit implication that ordinary, non-addictive conduct is freely willed?

Of course, this assumption underlies much of our day-to-day lives.  We show up at work late and we are responsible for the choices we made that caused our lateness.  Our legal system relies on the same assumption as well.  It assumes people freely do what they do and must take responsibility for their actions.

It seems to me that most of the brain disease resistance I encounter can be boiled down to protecting the universal existence of free will. People feel compelled to protect this for good reason, our social interactions and institutions depend on it.

Another post addressed the apparent incompatibility between free will and determinism by suggesting that we conceptualize them improperly and offered a helpful metaphor:
If a machine has two controllers (one controller representing deterministic factors and the other representing free will), does that mean that only one controller works? Or, is it possible that they both are capable of controlling the machine?
If that is possible, is it also possible that various factors diminish and/or enhance the functioning of each controller?
Another post likened free will to a psychological energy that may be depleted or restored at various intervals.

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Filed under Controversies, Policy, Random