Substance Abuse and the Convalescence of a Generation

It is important to note, when approaching the topic of substance abuse to understand that 17.3 million Americans or approximately 6.6 percent of the population were found to be dependent on alcohol or had problems related to their alcohol use, according to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. This means that the majority of people struggling with substance abuse are not getting the help that they desperately need because only, “3.5 million persons aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse problem in 2009.”

Most people confronting addiction today in the United States will more than likely be asked at some point to “work the steps.” The United States since 1935, has been in a blind relationship with Alcoholics Anonymous , and this goes hand in hand with the idea that we, “Lock up hundreds of nonviolent, drug-addicted offenders each year that could more effectively be treated in the community” (Gerritt, 2014) And it is not uncommon in the slightest that people find themselves not only struggling with an addiction but also presented with the sole option of 12-step programs or jail time. “Recovery programs are mandated by drug courts, prescribed by doctors and widely praised by reformed addicts.” Neither of which are safe or long term solutions to the problems the majority of addicts are having. (Gerritt, 2014)

The further I delve into what works versus what doesn’t work; I find it min-blowing that we persist, in the face of all reason and all evidence, in pushing the disease model as the best explanation for addiction. This model for addiction has been shown time and time again to be incongruent with the studies and data gathered on the topic. Therefore, I feel it is of utmost importance that we explore other options for treatment that do not adhere to the 12-step model.

I think that it is time to put an emphasis on other treatment methods, and as far as I can tell as a country we are late accepting more modern approaches to substance use disorders .The treatment used in 12-step programs are the same as in 1935. One can easily argue that real science is refined and changed all the time, as new information comes to light and data is regathered and scrutinized. However, AA, as an organization does not publish the actual success rates in a manner in which we can compare rates of recovery across the board.

Not all information in AA’s” 3-year surveys are regularly published, the most recent obtainable documentation of such is from 1989.” According to which, “About half those coming to AA for the first time will remain less than 3 months” and “after 12 months A.A.’s success rate is averaged at 5%” The rate of people quitting on their own is also 5%. This alone should be putting adequate pressure on us to make dramatic changes in the way we help those struggling with substance use disorders.


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