How The Today Show and Ronan Farrow Kept Me from Telling the Truth About Addiction

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Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on June 8th, 2017 - Last updated: August 15th, 2019
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Source: Vice on-line magazine

I have described how liberals are the most ardent supporters of the disease theory of addiction. (Disclosure, I am a liberal.)

This truth was driven home for me by my recent humiliation on The Today Show at the hands of Ronan Farrow.  Farrow presented three related woman who had each experienced, and passed along, addiction.  This was taken as unquestioned evidence for the genetic transmission of addiction, which all of these women, as used by NBC and Farrow, argued was true for them.

Of course, on the one hand, all had overcome their addictions by now for decades.  On the other, their belief system didn’t seem to be effective for preventing addiction from striking their children.

This was my argument, presented in a small ten-second clip, as the only opposition to the disease theory shown, after which I was shunted aside.  No time was given to my review of the evidence that addiction is not significantly determined by genes.

Instead, I was shunned and shamed.  No banner was presented under my name to identify my work with Ilse Thompson in Recover!: An Empowering Program to Help You Stop Thinking Like an Addict and Reclaim Your Life, showing that people who focus on their addict identities are less likely to escape addiction:

You are not your addiction; you are a valuable human being whose qualities endure and exceed your addiction. … It’s impossible to expect a person to achieve wellness by focusing on his or her faults and mistakes. Perhaps this is why conventional recovery asserts that people must remain “in recovery” forever and continue to identify themselves as addicts, no matter how long they are sober.

Also not mentioned was my having created a residential treatment program, the Life Process Program, from which I have generated an on-line coaching program to assist people combating their addictions.

Without such references, I was presented as a psychiatric diehard who supported Trumpcare’s removal of addiction treatment from the coverage provided by Obamacare.  Me as the status quo!  In fact my argument is that we are presenting the wrong type of care—that is, the disease treatment based on the false assumption that people inherit, and can’t escape, their genetic addiction legacy.

(Ironically, in this intellectual mishmash of a program, Donald Trump himself was shown arguing FOR the disease theory, where he claimed he has never touched alcohol in his life because he fears he inherited his brother’s alcoholism.)

But what was the bottom line from this Today Show segment for helping people to avoid or to deal with addiction?  There was none.  My argument that people stand the best chance of breaking the addiction chain in their families by believing in and assisting their children to live full lives, without burdening them with an addict identity, got no air time.

Here is how I described, in a clip that wasn’t shown, the course taken by a disease adherent whose own children drank moderately, unlike him and his father:

“First he created an emotionally and financially stable home for his children.  Second, he loved and encouraged them, and provided them with all the opportunities at his disposal to allow them to fulfill themselves, telling them ‘You can be whoever you want to be.’ Finally, he didn’t burden them with an alcoholic destiny that would always be lurking in their lives and that they would have to struggle to avoid forever.”

Meanwhile, the program offered no alternative ideas for people avoiding their families’ addictive legacies, aside from telling children that they have inherited an addiction gene.

Good luck with that.


Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.


  • Zach says:

    This is a coherent, respectful article. I’m sorry it was removed from PT– I’m going to share it out.

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