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Drug and Alcohol Treatment
Addiction is a Choice

michael hurd

By Michael J. Hurd  (February 23, 2006)
Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychologist, psychotherapist and author of Effective Therapy (New York: Dunhill, 1997) and Grow Up America! (Living Resources Press: Washington DC, 2000). He publishes the Living Resources Newsletter, covering topics related to psychology, culture and philosophy. He hosts the webcasts "Solutions--Not Excuses" and "Quick Commentary" at, and also has been published extensively on the opinion pages of various newspapers including USA Today and many others.

Most talk of addictions as something over which the individual is helpless. Yet how does this explain that so many end their addictions?

People quit smoking all the time. People quit alcohol. They quit nail-biting. They even quit heroin and crack cocaine. These are facts that nobody disputes.

So why do we focus so much on the helplessness of addicts? Addictions or compulsions can be real struggles and problems for people; I won't deny this for a second. But it somehow seems incorrect, within the psychiatric profession, on Oprah, or even by the office water cooler, to point out the fact that difficult, rational choices are made by people all the time. If I pointed this out to most of my colleagues in the mental health community, I would immediately be condemned for suggesting the heresy that "addiction is a choice."

But isn't it a fact that people do CHOOSE to stop, and successfully stay stopped, from doing things that are harmful and self-destructive? And if addicts are in fact choosing to STOP once they stop, wasn’t it likewise a choice to engage in the destructive behavior while they still did it?

Why must we ignore these facts? If we ignore them, we minimize the potential of human beings to overcome adversity. It seems to me that this is something that Oprah, psychotherapists, and psychiatrists would want to celebrate, not ignore.



Several very good articles regarding alcohol and drug addiction as well as treatment studies have recently been written. We have complied these for you here. The full articles are available on our server in PDF (Adobe Acrobat required - get it free here). Document will open in a new window. Simply open to read or 'save as' to download the article to your hard drive.
Below are the introductions to the articles.

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Alcohol: A Disease of Speculation - download complete article here
In 1976, the writer Ivan Illich warned in the book, Limits to Medicine, that 'the medical establishment has become a major threat to health'. At the time, he was dismissed as a maverick, but a quarter of a century later, even the medical establishment is prepared to admit that he may well be right. (Anthony Browne, April 14, 2002, the Observer).

Treatment Doesn't Work - download complete article here
Like Alcoholics Anonymous, treatment professionals claim success in the face of contradicting evidence. AA groupers boast "Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path." The truth is people rarely succeed when following the path of those in AA. As stated previously, 95% of the existing treatment centers in the United States adhere to the 12 Step philosophies. Not surprising, the success rate of treatment is no different from the success rate of AA: 3%.

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