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Addiction Questions

I cannot believe you say that loss of control over drugs and alcohol is a myth! You people are crazy. An alcoholic or drug addict is out of control. That’s just the way it is. Stop lying to people!

We get this kind of reaction a lot. It just proves the point of how the myth of loss of control is so profoundly a part of our culture today. However seemingly true this idea might sound, in fact, it’s completely false. Let us say it clearly here: no one, no matter the depth of their alcohol or drug issue, is out of control.  NO ONE. Here is an example of some priming studies that were conducted that prove our point (taken from Appendix A in The Freedom Model for Addictions):

“Think of what happens when someone with a nut allergy eats something without realizing that it contains nuts. It’s very simple: their symptoms occur regardless of their knowledge. They may swell up, have trouble breathing, and even go into shock. If “uncontrolled” substance use is the same type of biological reaction, then we can test it by giving addicts their problem substance without their knowledge and see what happens. If they respond by relentlessly seeking the substance or express a sudden burst of intense craving, then there’s something to the theory. If that doesn’t happen, then the craving can’t be a physiological reaction, like that in an allergy, and there must be something else going on. This is exactly what Marlatt did in a now legendary 1973 experiment. Here’s how one review summed up the simple experiment:

Nonabstinent alcoholics and social drinkers were given either alcoholic (vodka and tonic) or nonalcoholic beverages (tonic only) in a taste-rating task. In each condition, half the subjects expected to drink alcohol and half tonic. Consumption increased only when subjects expected alcohol, regardless of actual beverage content. (Marlatt, 1985)

The test subjects had access to pitchers full of the drinks and were told they could have as much as they wanted. The researchers came up with a mixture of alcohol that could not be detected by taste. If the allergy model were true, then the presence of alcohol in the mixture should have resulted in more drinking. In fact, consumption increased only when test subjects were led to believe they were drinking alcohol but did not increase when they were led to believe they weren’t drinking alcohol. This gets right to the core of the idea of an allergy-based loss of control and disproves it. Again, people with a nut allergy don’t need to know that they’ve eaten nuts to have the allergic reaction, yet alcoholics do need to know that they’ve had alcohol to react “alcoholically.”


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