Addiction and Global Warming

Addiction and Global Warming

The hysteria seems to increase everyday as more and more negative events are blamed on global warming.  I am skeptical, however, because I remember when similar scare tactics were applied to the theory of global cooling.  Today, the faith in global warming is not only politically correct but has become the narrative by which most other events are judged.  Politicians and the media tell us the verdict is in on the evidence for this phenomena.  For example, Al Gore says the debate on the subject is over and we do not need to look at the evidence any longer.  I am always skeptical when anyone says the debate is over, or when people start pushing an agenda without honest reflection and examination.  There is contrary evidence out there, but it is being pushed aside, and those who do speak up are being ostracized and denigrated.We seem to be entering the age of Galileo again, where contrary evidenced is brushed aside because it does not fit the popular narrative.

Global warming is not the only subject in our culture where you are expected to line up with the majority view.  A similar environment exists today regarding theories about alcohol addiction.  If you do not believe that the abuse of alcohol is a biological disease,then you are said to be ignorant of the plain facts of science.  The disease model, including the belief in the Twelve Step theory of treatment, is advocated with religious fervor by a majority in our culture today.  People are forbidden to examine the obvious flaws in this approach because “everyone knows” this treatment model is the only one that works.  But there is really no evidence that this model actually works.  For over 30 years there has been evidence to counter the belief that some people have a biological allergy to alcohol that prevents them from controlling their behavior.  Experiments have shown that people diagnosed as alcoholics are more affected by what they believe about alcohol than by the drug itself.The work of Mark and Linda Sobell (1993) has shown that problem drinkers can actually control and reduce their drinking without total abstinence.  So, the idea that some people have a special allergy to alcohol that causes them to lose control of their behavior has been demonstrated as false for years, and yet the belief continues to persist.  The contrary evidence is always discounted.

The view that alcohol abuse is a disease has arisen over the last 50 years in the United States, with roots going back even further.  It has become ingrained in our culture, and the disease belief has spread to other behaviors as well. Psychologist Stanton Peele, an authority in the field of addiction, says: “Our current conception of addiction is a historical anomaly, one that has arisen independent of laboratory or epidemiological data about drug use” (Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 602: 205, 1990).

There is no evidence that the disease model approach works any better than doing nothing.George Vaillant (1983), a proponent and leading authority on the disease model, says, “there is compelling evidence that the results of our treatment were no better than the natural history of the disease” (The Natural History of Alcoholism, p. 284).  But if the disease approach does not work any better than doing nothing, then perhaps alcohol abuse is not a disease after all.  In fact, treating the behavior as a disease may be the problem!

People usually counter this criticism by offering anecdotal experiences as evidence.They say, “I know many people who have been helped by AA and the Twelve Steps theory of addiction treatment.”  It may work for some people who are highly motivated and have a family support system, but what if something else would have worked better for these people?  And what about the people who fell by the wayside because this was the only treatment approach that was offered?

J B Myers


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