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The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, February 25, 2008

Pretty Soon, No More Addiction!

Newsweek’s March 3 cover announces that new drugs are changing the way we fight addiction.  This follows Time’s July 5, 2007 cover story on the same topic and New York Times Magazine’s June 25, 2006 story.  We know two things – we haven’t licked addiction yet, and by the time the same story is repeated each year, everyone seems to have forgotten the previous one.

Newsweek editor Jon Meacham happily announces our progress in this area, like that we have made with depression.  (Has depression really declined since the advent of anti-depressants?)  But several articles in the same issue might make us wary of the coming new age of addiction-proofing.  One outlines the ever-expanding war on drug users: “Between 2000 and 2006, the number of drug offenders in federal prison jumped 26 percent, to 93,751. An additional 250,000 are incarcerated in state facilities and. . . . the government has budgeted close to $13 billion for drug control, treatment and prevention.”

But this isn’t the most pessimistic article in the issue.  That is the one describing a teenager’s addiction to prescription drugs – the fastest growing drugs of abuse and addiction.  Will the new vaccines combat addiction to these drugs also?

The amnesia that makes us think we are reading for the first time about the new cures for addiction allows us to forget that such cover stories have been staples for four decades.  In 1981, I discussed several articles from the late 1970s about the discovery of the endorphins.  Similar articles have continued to appear regularly since then – in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s – with no diminution in addiction.

Fortunately for their reputations, the makers of these disproved claims get out of town before the sheriff arrives – or, more accurately, get a renewal with the fresh appearance of each optimistic story.  We are addicted to cover stories announcing the discovery of the source and cure for addiction!

So, when will we see a real reduction in addiction?  In 10 years, 20, 30?  Tell me when to look for such data – and what I get if, as I confidently predict, they never occur.