Paradigm Shift

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

We don't know anything!

It appears as though the Miami Dade County School Board is doing the same thing as what happened in Oklahoma earlier this year. The Dade County School Board "has filed a federal lawsuit against more than a dozen corporations that manufacture or distribute opioids, claiming that the nation’s fourth largest school district should be compensated for the money it has spent battling the “worst man-made epidemic in modern medical history.”

As we know we are in the midst of the country's worse drug epidemic ever. Absolutely nothing has helped to resolve or even slow down the negative effects, and especially the deaths, from drug overdoes. For the most part, there is a sense of helplessness and fear that exists in our society with respect to this epidemic. Everything that has been attempted to combat the epidemic has failed miserably. The efforts of those who say they understand the cause of addiction and especially our treatment industry has been completely ineffective.

Big Pharma is now considered by many to be the real cause of the drug epidemic. As a result of this idea, it is believed that by suing the pharmaceutical companies that the real cause of addiction can be attacked at its source and a resolution achieved in court. It is my opinion that not only will this type of strategy not work at achieving its objectives but will in fact reinforce the fundamental nature of the drug epidemic itself. This type of situation tends to happen when one system in our society attempts to compensate for the inept and incompetent nature of another.

It is my opinion that the legal remedy that is now being sought will do two very detrimental things with respect to the drug epidemic. First it will reinforce the already existing belief that addicts and alcoholics are merely poor victims and that they are not responsible for their condition. Second, by continuing to focus on something external to the addict and alcoholic we will not use our collective energy to focus on the addict and alcoholic himself. It is my belief that the root cause of addiction is internal to the addict and not something happening outside of him.

I will reiterate again, we need a Paradigm Shift with respect to drug and alcohol addiction. We simply do not have an adequate understanding of what drug and alcohol addiction is all about. Many pretend that they know but the truth is that they do not. When we are unable to move from a theoretical perspective of a disorder to effective treatment modalities for that condition the most likely suspect is our understanding of the problem. However, we do what many individuals who could be characterized as being insane do. We continue to do the same thing over and over expecting a different result.

Unfortunately our resistance to change, coupled with a great deal of arrogance, makes us complicit in our collective malady. Stated simply, many individuals are dying and will continue to die because of our ignorance. When are we going to wake up to the truth? When are we going to admit that we do not understand what addiction is all about? When are we going to admit that we need to shift our efforts to find resolution to this terrible social condition back to its source and not continue to look in the wrong place and ask the wrong questions? When are we going to admit that addiction has nothing to do with the drugs?

Dr. Harry Henshaw