The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, January 10, 2011. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's blog at The Huffington Post website.

Society as Pusher: Addicted While Under Medical Control

Perhaps you've heard of inmates smuggling illicit drugs into prison. Why, then, people might become addicted while incarcerated.

But what if a person became addicted due to medical care -- say an extremely high profile inmate who is being carefully treated and monitored? In other words, what if addiction was not the result of foreign substances and off the chart behavior, but due to standard -- actually hyper-vigilant -- institutional care, with people whose every action is the subject of intense scrutiny and direction?

That would place addiction in a different light from how most physicians, institutional authorities and anti-addiction advocates see it. Addiction would then appear to be an almost sanctioned response, a mainstream phenomenon at the very core of our regimented society.

So it is with some interest that we discover, according to the lead in The New York Times article, "Financier Is Described as Addicted to Medicine", that "R. Allen Stanford, the Texas financier accused of defrauding investors in a $7 billion Ponzi scheme, has become addicted to anti-anxiety medication while in federal detention" such that "psychiatrists testifying separately for the defense team and the prosecution said that Mr. Stanford had become mentally incapacitated." (The article also notes that Mr. Stanford was depressed, and suffered a beating in detention.)

This suggests three questions:

  • Do people become addicted while receiving pharmaceuticals administered on regular medical regimens and not through illicit purchases of prescription drugs or through doctor and prescription shopping?
  • Is addiction something that takes place within the boundaries of medicine's accepted prescription practices and medically designated dosages of legal pharmaceuticals? Mr. Stanford has been taking large doses of the anti-anxiety drug clonazepam, along with antidepressants, for about a year, the article stated.
  • If medically supervised care produced such a state, why then would medically supervised addiction treatment remedy it? Or, put another way, what does it say when medical care passes a person off from psychiatric to addiction treatment? To wit, "While the psychiatrists disagreed on some points, they generally agreed that Mr. Stanford needed weeks if not months to undergo treatment for addiction ... "

Rather than a picture of addiction being medically and scientifically well understood, this paints a portrait of people who become addicted in socially approved ways, without breaking any laws or going outside regulated medical channels. Doesn't this then make us nervous about the massive utilization in America of psychiatric medications like those Mr. Stanford is receiving, particularly for teens and even younger kids?

In "Love and Addiction," published in 1975, I wrote with Archie Brodsky that addiction is not a deviant behavior outside of the social mainstream, but is rather at the heart of our society -- something that is encouraged and supported by our modern mind set and social institutions. When people who are entirely under the state's care become addicted to drugs that they are provided, we have precise, almost laboratory, proof of this proposition.