Should I get treatment after I have already stopped my addiction?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on September 26th, 2011 - Last updated: January 30th, 2014
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I am a health professional who developed an opiate dependency that cycled out of control over a 6 month period. I stopped the drug use on my own 6 weeks ago and have no desire to go back. When contacting colleagues about addiction treatment a was persuaded to go to a treatment center like Springbrook or Betty Ford for 6-12 weeks. The logic used was I would not hesitate to do this if I was diagnosed with cancer. Feeling this would be ruinous to my practice, I opted for a local outpatient treatment program that is 4 hours per day for 4 weeks. I continue to work.

Here is my dilemma. I know within myself that I will never go back to opiate use and that I can stop. I am in psychotherapy weekly and feel better emotionally than I have in a long time. I am in my 2nd week at this program and hate every minute of it. The program and all the counselors are heavily AA oriented. I feel like I am brainwashed daily with AA rhetoric. I cannot accept that I am powerless and my life is unmanageable. My gut tells me leave but continue with psychotherapy, but the professionals I have spoken to say I have an incurable disease that I will die from if I don’t get their version of treatment. Can’t a person simply stop and move on? The program also pushes the cross addiction concept. I am being told that that first drink or OTC prescription will eventually lead me back to my drug of choice. I have had drinks on occasion since stopping opiates and feel no craving or compulsion for drugs. What are your thoughts?


Dear Tim:

I can’t tell people whether they should enter — or stay in — treatment. But I can tell you that the dangers treatment will be used against you are considerable. This is especially true in your case, as a health professional. Among the dangers are the following:

  1. If, at some time in the future, you have a mishap or disciplinary infraction, it will be related back to your prior drug use/addiction;
  2. Even if you felt that you were not addicted at the time of your prior drug use (although in your case you say you were), your attendance in the program can subsequently be used as evidence that you were indeed addicted (dependent);
  3. Now or in the future, licensing, law enforcement, or professional groups or employers may insist that you abstain from all psychoactive substance use (based on the concept of cross addiction), including as you point out prescription medications and alcohol;
  4. If you (as you do) find the treatment useless, or worse, offensive or abusive, quitting treatment at any time before the providers say you are done may be used against you professionally or otherwise, perhaps immediately (i.e., the provider will turn you in) — of course, if this is true in your situation, then your simply having entered treatment can already be a big problem;
  5. If you should have children, particularly if you ever get divorced, your drug dependence is a sword of Damocles over your head and may be used against you by your spouse or child welfare agencies.

In other words, the biggest irony is that drug treatment, sold as a value-free medical solution for a disease, frequently results in legal and professional ramifications and penalties for people. And there is no statute of limitations on these penalties.

On the other hand, my site is full of cases of people who have successfully quit or moderated an addiction on their own. This is obviously more likely for those, like yourself, who have already ceased their addicted drug use. Again, I can’t tell you not to enter or finish treatment. But I can tell you that many more people have quit addictions on their own than through treatment.


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.

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