The United States drug czar, R. Gil Kerlikowske, who is the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy recently delivered a speech in Little Rock, Arkansas. He spoke before an assembly of around 700 people who were gathered to discuss the issue of prescription drug abuse. Non-medical use of prescription drugs including sedatives, stimulants and opiate painkillers has become an enormous problem in the United States, as highlighted by Mr. Kerlikowske when he reported that drug overdose now kills more Americans than motor vehicle accidents and gunshot wounds combined. Of all types of drugs, pharmaceutical medications are a leading culprit in what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes as a “deadly epidemic” of abuse. For example, painkiller overdose kills around 15,000 people every year, more than both heroin and cocaine combined. During his speech, the drug czar also forward his view of how we as a nation should be attempting to solve this enormous public health problem. Rather than treating addiction as a moral failure on the part of the addict, he believes that the most effective approach would be to consider addition as a disease of the brain. His opinion is that addiction treatment should be geared to this viewpoint, which typically involves the use of medications to supplant the drug of addiction and in some cases to directly change the chemical balance of the brain in hopes of rewiring the areas which are involved in drug addiction.
In sharing this viewpoint, Mr. Kerlikowske waded into the middle of an ongoing debate concerning the nature of addiction. On the one side, many argue along with the drug czar that addiction is a purely physiological phenomenon. Not only does the body become addicted through the mechanics of dependency, but certain people are thought to be genetically predisposed to getting hooked on drugs and alcohol. For example, a recent study seemed to demonstrate that some people’s brains are less sensitive to alcohol, and that these people are therefore more likely to become alcoholics since they have to consume more alcohol in order to get drunk. On the other side are those who consider addiction to be more of an emotional and moral problem. Addicts are supposed to have fallen into the trap of dependency as a result of a lack of moral fiber or a failure to exercise self-control. Fortunately, neither of these two camps at either end of the spectrum account for all of the views on addiction and the most effective avenues for treatment.
Narconon Increases Ability Rather than Treating Disability
The Narconon drug addiction rehabilitation program takes a balanced approach towards the treatment of addiction, and in doing so it achieves an outstanding success rate of around 70% in terms of getting people off of drugs and alcohol for good. Rather than placing the sole emphasis on the physical or emotional/mental aspect of addiction, it addresses both. At the outset of the program, students (as patients are referred to in Narconon) begin a process of physical detoxification. This involves a combination of moderate exercise, good diet, nutritional supplements and time spent sweating in a dry heat sauna. The purpose of this activity is to cleanse the body’s tissues of the residues left behind by past drug use. These residues are found to be largely responsible for the cravings that recovering addicts often experience, and by flushing them out of the body the person gets a fresh start physically. Beyond detoxification, students also receive counseling that brings their attention more into present time, rather than having it stuck on past experiences of drug use and past upsets in life. They also study a number of different life skills courses that boost their ability to cope with pressure and stress, to make ethical decisions, to communicate with others, to learn and to choose the right type of people to associate with. Taken together, these steps work to increase the student’s ability to overcome addiction and to succeed in life, rather than looking at an addict as someone who suffers from a brain disease or who is morally weak. The proof of the validity of this approach is in the numbers. As mentioned above, nearly three quarters of Narconon graduates stay sober after completing the program, a figure that is among the best in the field of addiction treatment.
To see the full Narconon study video visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNFDimLNTzs