In his provocative and compelling TEDGlobal Talk on addictions, journalist Johann Hari says, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.”
Titled, “Everything you know about addictions is wrong” Hari suggests the research has it all wrong. That what we do to the addicts in our world is not working because we haven’t looked at the other ways that do work.He cites the case of Portugal which has de-criminalized all drugs from Marijuana to Heroin and is experiencing dramatic results as a case in point.
His talk is engaging, but it’s also depressing, writes Doug Chaudron, formerly of Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and author of Theories on Alcoholism. In his response to Hari’s TED Talk at The Progressive Economics Forum, he writes that there is nothing new in what Hari is suggesting. The addictions recovery business has seen the research and known that there are alternatives that work better for decades.
” The depressing part is that the research (e.g., Alexander’s Rat Park) and the conceptual alternatives he discusses have been well known in the addictions business for decades.
…Equally, even more, depressing is that the concepts have not “penetrated” the addiction-treatment industry. For an equal number of decades, research has shown that: shorter treatment is as effective as, or more effective than, longer treatment; outpatient treatment is as effective as, or more effective than, inpatient treatment; treatment by modestly-trained counselors is as effective as, or more effective than, treatment by heavily-trained experts; and brief interventions are as effective as, or more effective than, extensive and intensive interventions. But the treatment industry continues to prescribe long-term, intensive, inpatient treatment delivered by highly-trained experts.”
Chaudron’s conclusion is as depressing as what he says about Hari’s talk.
It’s all about The Money.
A billion dollar recovery industry is all about the money.
We could do better. We choose not to because… money talks.
The voice of money is louder than the voice of 10% Albertans who live with an addiction.
The voice of money is louder than doing the best and right thing for those suffering from addictions. And while Hari has not discovered a new understanding of addiction and simply repackaged old information, the fact is, as Chaudron says,
“research also leads to the discovery that the less-effective forms of treatment involve the making of more MONEY by their providers than the proven alternatives. Surprise, surprise…”
Regardless, Hari’s TED talk is worth watching because in the end, it’s not about the addiction it’s about people, relationships and connections. It’s about our ability to be compassionate and our ability to LOVE.