Addiction experts try to convince human beings that love can't help them quit addictions, even though the majority of addicts quit, most often due to love.  Experts do so in order to maintain more people as addicts - kidding, they do so because - well you tell me why.

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The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, July 10, 2009. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.

Addiction experts want you to be like Michael Jackson

I confess - I wrote about Michael Jackson's inability to quit his addiction out of love for his child to provoke responses like the following: "An addict may love their child deeply, but 'love' cannot compete with drug addiction. Addiction is not rational and having children cannot keep a person sober."

This gives me a chance to describe just how wrong this position is. According to the writer, NOT ONE human being has quit smoking (the hardest addiction to quit) because of a child or a spouse. WRONG. It is the most common (by far) reason the 40 million or so Americans who have done so give for quitting. Ask around a table some time how many people have quit smoking, and why.  And, oh, most quitters do not rely on nicotine patches et al.

I give this common sense example because "addiction experts" (like this reader) are unlikely to be deterred by actual data. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health , 21 percent of Americans ages 18-25 are dependent on or abuse substances (the most being alcohol dependent), while 7 percent of those over 26 are.  According to Kenneth Sher and his colleagues in Psychological Theories of Drinking and Alcoholism (p. 91): "The large declines in the mid- to late 20s is often termed 'maturing out' and is associated with . . . . marriage, pregnancy (for both women, and to a lesser degree, their spouses)."  The failure to mature out is often due to psychopathology factors.

(By the way, one way you can tell a kooky addiction expert is when they explain these data by saying, "Of course, all the addicts die." In other words, thirteen percent of Americans ages 18-25 - two thirds of all substance abusers in this age group - die within a few years due to their addictions.)

According to the Psych Tdy commenter, addicted women NEVER (let alone not frequently) quit drug use (including smoking and drinking) when they are pregnant, while investigators who examine the life span of substance abusers report the opposite.  Why the discrepancy?  When people's knowledge of addiction comes entirely from attending AA meetings (or examining addict brain scans), they find proof positive that people are unable to quit an addiction under usual circumstances - in other words, they learn the atypical is the rule.

This is understandable, but very unfortunate.  Because views like those expressed by the commentator strive to convince addicts of what their own souls are screaming to enunciate - "I want to quit and I can quit on behalf of this child."  Like the man who described to me how he had to quit a lifetime of smoking (he had a child after he was fifty) when, returning home from work every day, he found his daughter waiting: "Why don't you love me - otherwise, why would you be killing yourself?"  What else could this confirmed addict do, but quit?

One of the classic studies in the alcoholism field is Barry Tuchfeld's "Spontaneous Remission in Alcoholics," in which he interviewed some of the majority of people who quit alcoholism on their own.  A typical case he described was the formerly alcoholic woman who quit while she was pregnant: "I was drinking beer one morning and felt the baby quiver. I poured the rest of the beer out and I said, 'God forgive me, I'll never drink another drop.'"

Why do addiction "experts" insist that this typical, human experience cannot happen?  What purpose does it serve for them?  Why do they want everyone to believe that this is the case?  In fact, Jackson had repeatedly entered addiction treatment, where he was taught what this commenter wants us to believe.  It seems that, perversely, such experts are striving to force everyone to the lowest common denominator, to make everyone into a Michael Jackson.  In a sense, this commenter is making Jackson into a role model for addicts.