Michelle Obama has revealed that her husband has quit smoking - after he previously announced he had quit "95%" - limiting his smoking to the golf course and similar male bastions.  That the President can step down his addiction means he should welcome injection sites for heroin users.


The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, February 9, 2011. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.

Obama's Smoking and Drug Injection Sites

This post is a response to Stuck in the Mud of De Nial, or Harm Reducer in Chief? by Stanton Peele, Ph.D., J.D.


Michelle Obama has announced that hubby Barack has ceased smoking for the better part of a year - and claims she's in a position to know.

This seems funny to some, because previously the President had announced that he had quit "95%" - and everyone knows there's no such thing as "cutting back" on smoking and other addictions.

Seemingly, Mr. Obama was smoking with buddies on the golf course, who themselves joined in the quitting effort. But, the President said, he never smoked at home in the presence of his family.

How is this possible? We know addiction is a disease that cannot be controlled.

But apparently it went somewhat this way: like many people, Mr. Obama's smoking was sharply curtailed by his job and family. That this itself is possible - i.e., people can reduce smoking in line with circumstances - seems a remarkable breakthrough insight. For example, when workplace and public place (e.g., bars and restaurants) anti-smoking laws were enacted, strong objections were raised that people couldn't regulate their addictions in that way.

Turned out they could.

Moreover, exercising greater control over their addictions moved them to a place where they were more capable of quitting completely - as in control is a practiced skill.

What does this say about illicit drug addicts? I spoke two weeks ago in Vancouver at PHS (Portland Hotel Community Health Services) which runs a series of residences and services and an injection room for addicts (named Insite, recently described in the NY Times ). The concept behind this approach - which is horrifying to Americans - is that giving people greater control over and optimism about their lives leads them to a place where they are better able to quit (the supervised injection room is in the same building as a detox and a drug-free halfway house).

And, in the meantime, of course, people are not being infected by dirty needles, they are getting fed and housed, and - God be praised - they are being treated like human beings who deserve some care and dignity - you know, like the President, despite his filthy habit.

So the President should be massively in favor of such supervised and regulated services and sites for addicts (kind of like the White House was for him - where he wasn't allowed to smoke but where he had a nice place to sleep - and the golf course, a place where he maintained his addiction under controlled and limited conditions).

True, it took him some time to overcome the fear of quitting cigarettes entirely - a crutch he had relied on since adolescence. But, it seems, miracles never cease. I mean, if the President of the United States can benefit from harm reduction, then so too can the less advantaged among us.

P.S.  There is, I think, a valuable exchange in the comments over how Gabor Mate - who has worked with the PHS-Insite population - relates to my model.