They put people in addiction treatment without withdrawal symptoms!

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on November 14th, 2012 - Last updated: January 30th, 2014
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Further Reading


I have been looking for an address for you for months and am glad that I finally found it! Your book “Diseasing of America” is the first I have read that agreed with me about the concepts of addiction and over-diagnoses of all sorts of disorders. Before I found that book, I felt like an outcast in the few AA meetings that I managed to go to.

I am now 24 and have been through around ten treatment centers (2 long term). The last one I went to included people who had been picked up for a DWI and people who had been prostituting themselves for crack or heroin. This range, I believe, led people to exaggerate their addiction symptoms, to “top” the next person’s stories. There were people who claimed to be in the chronic stages of alcoholism (according to the almighty Jellinik Chart), despite having drunk for less then 8 years. The people who believed this were not further informed by the counselors at the facility, but praised for being “honest” and “in touch” with themselves.

I have always believed (perhaps illogically) that one needs to have symptoms of physical withdrawal from a substance to meet the criteria for dependence or addiction. I went through ten days of opiate withdrawl last March and six of opiate and alcohol withdrawl in August of last year. To me, it dilutes the meaning of the word “addiction” when people overdiagnose themselves with addiction, and it also dilutes the possibility of treatment. I knew a woman, several years ago, who joined AA even though she was told by a treatment facility that she did not meet the criteria for substance dependance. That same woman became convinced that she had multiple personalities, a sex addiction, an abusive relationship with an ex-husband, and that she was a compulsive debtor. It was then that I realized that entirely too many people have joined AA/NA for reasons other then addiction.

I know that this letter is long, but I wanted to let you know that my experiences (like those of so many others) correlate to your book and articles. Thank you for putting into words the suspicions that I have had for years.


Thank you, Marta.

I agree with your observations and I appreciate your seriousness in thinking about your and others’ situations. While I think that “addiction” is overdiagnosed, that for me is not the problem as much as is what is done for/with/to people thus diagnosed. For me it is not so important whether and how people have gone through withdrawal, as to how they have devoted their lives to destructive involvements that they want to change. Telling them they are addicted is generally not a step in the right direction, but an added burden in coming to grips with overwhelming habits. And, Marta, I hope you are harnessing your good, critical thinking to developing a positive, nonaddicted lifestyle.

All best,

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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