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Addiction Questions

I was reading your website about the freedom model, and noticed that you talk a lot about getting over alcoholism and drug addiction for good. I think that’s great, but there are people out there that cannot recover from this disease. Obviously the homeless drunk is not able to free himself from the grips of booze. So try to be more careful how you portray “getting over” or “moving on” as you put it, from alcoholism and drug addiction.

I am assuming there is a question in there somewhere. I’ll try my best to respond by saying that you are a believer in loss of control, and while that may be your prerogative, it is more dangerous to promote falsehoods than it is to tell the truth. Even the homeless drunk, as you put it, is able to move past addiction.  We cover this topic, by providing the studies where researchers worked with that population, in an attempt to see if loss of control was real or not. Take a look at the following Freedom Model for Addictions excerpt:

“The same sort of manipulation of costs and options that Hart did with users of substances such as cocaine and methamphetamine was also done decades earlier with alcohol users in behavioral research laboratories, such as the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Maryland. Similar results were shown. The test subjects at NIMH did not have mild drinking problems—they all had between 5 and 30 years of a history of “alcoholism”; they all experienced tolerance and withdrawal. The researchers found the subjects at a local correctional institution, and they were “for the most part, homeless men with a history of repeated incarceration for public drunkenness.” (Heather & Robertson, 1983)

At the time of the experiments, they lived in the ward of the hospital, and while the researchers tightly controlled their access to alcohol, they still gave them plenty of access to it in exchange for completing various tasks in behavioral experiments. It was decisively shown through several experiments in this laboratory that drinking, in alcoholics, is a behavior affected by costs, consequences, and other environmental factors, just like any other normal human behavior. It was shown that the worst of the worst “alcoholics” can clearly be seen to have control over their drinking when we look for it.

One of the NIMH studies that makes the case well was extremely simple. Eight subjects could drink as much as they wanted, but they had to earn it. The work to earn it was simple. They each had a box with a button that they had to push one thousand times to earn a single poker chip, which they could then trade for either a cigarette or an ounce of whiskey. Heather and Robertson, (1983) describe it here:

‘This task was so simple that it could not be impaired by alcohol intoxication and could be performed while watching television, eating or talking. Under these conditions, all eight subjects showed a very clear and surprising dissociation between drinking and work periods. Typically, they would work during periods of abstinence of one or two days’ duration until they had earned enough tokens to drink for two or three days. The cycle would then begin again. During the abstinent working periods subjects frequently displayed withdrawal signs, ranging from mild to moderate in severity and associated with rapid falls in blood alcohol level. However, it is important to note that, despite the occurrence of these partial withdrawal phenomena, subjects did not immediately start drinking to abolish them even though alcohol was available, but generally preferred to continue working to amass more tokens.‘ (p. 84)”



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