Not too long ago, there was some media buzz about the efficacy of addiction therapy. This is not a popular subject. If one works in the rehabilitation (rehab) industry one is understandably resistant to any metric devices that might prove the methodology ambiguous. Addiction is a very resistant phenomenon. There are occasions, when a society of thinking people can agree, that lacking a 100% guarantee, erring on the side of empathy and care is optimal. For some addicts, the simple act of stopping something in motion, is enough to change their lives. Rehabilitation can be that barricade.
Addiction to alcohol, drugs or eating disorders has never seemed quiet or private to me. I recognize someone in the throes of the phenomenon (whether they are using or not.) People with a Faustian relationship with food are very obvious to me, and I completely understand the entertainment value of metaphorically playing with one’s food. Of course, when it spills into passive suicidal tendencies, all bets are off. It is torture to be in the life of an addict. Addicts can be very unpredictable and by definition, not reliable (their primary relationship is to their addiction.) Empathy can wear thin after multiple incidents. It is helpful to remember that people use drugs, food, and alcohol to the point of personal destruction, NOT because the substances or processes are so tempting, but because without them, life would be unbearable. In other words; drugs, eating disorders and alcohol work. They numb and distract from an inner pain that for some people is devastatingly crippling.
Posh rehab centers are part of the American lexicon. Most of us can rattle off one or two without thought (Hazelden, Betty Ford.) Colleges and universities now address eating disorders via education campaigns, marketing (‘all you can eat’ dining have been replaced with ‘all you care to eat’ dining) staff training and additional counseling staff. Certainly excessive/binge drinking (which can be an indication of alcoholism) has been the bane of higher education for some time (drug abuse, because of its inherent illegality poses more of a conundrum.) Employers contracting with treatment providers has become de rigueur. Clearly, there is treatment available for some.
But what of the veterans? Veterans are returning, and mercifully will continue to do so in even greater number now. They will come back to what kind of treatments and where? This week it was reported that 1 in 5 suicides is that of a veteran. Now, I’d be the first to say that NOT screening people for mental illness before enlistment is absurd. But regardless, we have a problem here. I don’t mean to imply that veterans (or anyone) who commits suicide is an addict. Not at all. But there is overlap. Suicide, most often, is not a well thought out end of life plan, but an act of someone who feels they have no options. Addiction is also the result of feeling there are no feasible options. Teaching people to recognize their pain for what it is, and providing them tools to pull themselves out of that pain, is effective. Rehabilitation, at its best, does just that.
So what’s our plan? If rehabilitation is accepted by the wealthy, the educated and corporate America, as viable treatment for addiction, shouldn’t it be available to all?