The Myth of Addiction as “Equal Opportunity Destroyer”

Stanton Peele By: Dr. Stanton Peele

Posted on July 10th, 2017 - Last updated: October 22nd, 2018
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The worst of the disease theory is that it says everyone is equally susceptible

News Item:

New county-level data from the CDC highlight the extreme geographic variation in opioid prescription rates, with some areas showing average morphine equivalents per capita 10 times greater than those of less-impacted counties. As seen in the map below, Appalachia appeared to be one giant hot spot. But every state had at least one county with a high per-capita rate of prescribed opioid use.


Quiz question:

Do you think that the individual counties with high levels of opioid use were the wealthiest county in their state (say West Chester, in New York?)

If you guessed (wrongly) the wealthiest county, you would be perfectly following disease logic: “Since everyone is equally susceptible, then the wealthiest people are most able to afford the drugs.”

Historical interlude:

In my long, peripatetic career journey, I lectured once at the greatest university center of brain = addiction, Concordia University, in Montreal (home to Roy Wise, the supposed discoverer that rats love cocaine so much they will stimulate their brains, cocaine like, until they die).

When I quizzed this group about how smoking patterns had been changing, one bright-eyed researcher shot his hand up and answered: “richer people smoke more, since prices have risen so much.”  Correct answer: smoking as a habit has become ensconced among the least well-off, least-educated Americans.

So you think:

So those of you who answered “people are equally susceptible to opioid addiction, and in fact the better-off are worse off since they have more money,” believe that the Obama daughters are equally likely to become addicted to people living in Appalachia with generations of social welfare status and family dysfunction?

Why this matters:

Aside from its always being worthwhile to know the truth, since it points to the well-springs of addiction in people’s lives rather than to the mythical addictive properties of drugs, the anti-addiction crusade, armed with the truth (if they could accept it) would focus on inequity, social opportunity, people’s life situations rather than on drug supplies, which are endless.

One sidelight of CDC opioid report:

Opioid use has, in fact, been declining nationally, while drug-related deaths (incorrectly labelled overdoses) have been skyrocketing, extending even beyond the 2015 data in the CDC’s current report.

What you can do at home:

When you join your local opioid crisis group, and someone states the “addiction-is-an-equal-opportunity-destroyer” view, ask questions such as,

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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