Shifting the paradigm of addiction treatment.

I believe that we desperately need a Paradigm Shift with respect to our present level of understanding drug and alcohol addiction. I believe further that we currently do not adequately understand what addiction is all about. The reason for my suggestion is that to date we have been unable to provide adequate or effective help to those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. There is no connection between our current conceptualization of drug and alcohol addiction and effective treatment modalities.

One of the problems that any Paradigm Shift would face is the current gestalt that exists within our society about addiction. Our way of conceiving of anything, addiction included, in our society is driven and determined by what can be referred to as our gestalt, an organized way of understanding something that is more than the sum of its parts, some of which is conscious and other parts of it are unconscious. The parts or elements of any gestalt are believed to be true, to be absolutes even.

The current gestalt in this country, at least about addiction, is comprised of several concepts or ideas that are considered to be truths, truths that are believed to be based on science. Currently we believe that addiction is a disease and that the addict and alcoholic are not responsible for their condition. Connected to the concept of responsibility, we also believe that the addict and alcoholic did not choose his addiction to drugs and alcohol. Furthermore, we believe that the addict and alcoholic are powerless with respect to their addiction.

The various beliefs that comprise our current gestalt about drug and alcohol addiction are considered to be truths, absolutes. Any thought or belief that is put forward concerning addiction is instantly measured by these commonly held beliefs about addiction. This is especially apparent when the work of transformation is put forth as an alternative way of viewing addiction. For example, transformation believes that we are completely responsible for all of our experiences, that we choose what we experience and that we have the power to change or transform our life and what we experience.

I believe that the essential reason to explore having a Paradigm Shift is that the current gestalt that we utilize to explain and treat addiction simply does not work. As we know, more and more people continue to die from drug overdoes with the numbers rising daily and no end in sight. We also know, even though much effort is put into keeping this fact a secret from the public, the relapse rate for those coming our of residential treatment center is very high. Given the facts of what is happening, it makes sense to explore the creation of a new paradigm for understanding addiction.

Dr. Harry Henshaw