Review by John Wallace of Stanton's Diseasing of America


For a period, John Wallace — director of treatment at the private hospital where Kitty Dukakis was initially treated for alcoholism — wrote responses to almost all Stanton's articles about alcohol treatment. In response to Stanton's "Can we treat away our alcohol and drug problems or is the current treatment binge doing more harm than good?" (Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 20, 375-383, 1988), Wallace wrote "Can Stanton Peele's opinions be taken seriously?" (JPD, 21, 259-271, 1989), which was then disseminated nationwide through treatment provider groups.

Following his article, the recovery journal Sober Times asked Wallace to review Stanton's book. As Stanton said, "they first asked my ex-wife's mother to do an objective review, but she was busy writing my biography." (Stanton has not actually been divorced.) Following are the first and final paragraphs of the review.

Within a few years Wallace's hospital was closed, despite his exorbitant claims for its success rates, because insurers became convinced that the inpatient hospital treatment it offered was overpriced and not cost effective.

(Sober Times, April 1990, p. 17)

Reviewer Completely Refutes Author's Views and Opinions

John Wallace

Director of Treatment
Edgehill-Newport Hospital
Newport, Rhode Island

Stanton Peele's new book, Diseasing of America: Addiction Treatment Out of Control, is intemperate, incautious, hyperbolic, resentful, distorted, illogical, misleading, inaccurate, angry, insensitive, dogmatic, without compassion, unfair, imprudent, and often wrong. In short, it is the literary equivalent of the dry drunk. On reading this ideological tract that pretends to be science, one suspects that the only thing out of control here is Stanton Peele.

*  *  *

Some authors like controversy because they believe it sells books. Hence, they like to present themselves and their books as controversial in order to entice people into buying them. Stanton Peele's book is not a controversial book. It is simply a bad book. Don't buy it.

An inset within the review contained the following quote from Stanton's article, "Cures depend on attitude, not programs," Los Angeles Times, March 14, 1990.

"Addiction is a way of coping with life, of artificially attaining feelings and rewards people feel they cannot achieve in any other way. As such, it is no more a treatable medical problem than is unemployment, lack of coping skills, or degraded communities and despairing lives. The only remedy for addiction is for more people to have the resources, values and environments necessary for living productive lives. More treatment will not win our badly misguided war on drugs. It will only distract our attention from the real issues in addiction."

However, not everybody was as negative about Diseasing of America as John Wallace. Here are the views of Neil Kurtzman, Alan Marlatt, Ellen Langer, Peter Nathan, and Herbert Fingarette.