Dear Chris Ferry:
Your name recently came up in my Harm Reduction, anti-prohibition, and/or AntiAA activist groups. Your activities tap all of the issues that I write on even if I’m not against treatment. What I am against is treatment that is unlikely to work. And the fact is that most rehab doesn’t work. Society is in increasing crisis because rather than addressing as a whole that rehab doesn’t work, more energy and money is being pumped into the idea that it is the only option for “addiction.” But the truth is that this is NOT true. While it is true that some people will eventually stop consuming drugs who have repeatedly gone to rehab, it isn’t clear that going to rehab is part of this process of choosing to stop consuming illegal drugs because most people “mature out of drug consumption,” as is explained in more detail an important recent book by Stanton Peele and Zach Rhoads, Outgrowing Addiction. (This is also NOT to say that they are the only “addiction experts” who argue that most rehabs are NOT especially effective). In addition, to not working in the statistical sense, an additional problem with abstinence based rehab is that it dramatically increases the chance of OD death. And you can research this yourself which I would recommend.
What is more effective is Harm Reduction, which gets away from the toxic idea that it is sobriety/ total abstinence or “jail, institution, or death” which is the key to AA ideology but also kills people unnecessarily by creating this false paradigm and then making it true. Portugal and Switzerland provide opposite and yet information approaches to decreasing prohibition and the false paradigm that one must be abstinent and go to rehab or die. Portugal simply decriminalized illegal drugs, and this decreased not just the cost on the government and tax payers for enforcing prohibition but also health costs caused by prohibition. Best of all, decreasing the cost on the consumer, as in making it safer to consume drugs (again what is known as “harm reduction”) keeps people alive and healthier since the goal is to keep people alive and as healthy as possible. Thus, legalizing drugs also reduced dangerous consumption which is typically known as “addiction.”
Switzerland has prescription heroin, or what could be thought of as limited but still legal heroin. This is even more effective in eliminating the spread of blood borne disease that comes from making heroin and the possession of needles illegal. And also because it reduces the harm, it allows people to stabilize and so many decrease their consumption or even stop consuming heroin altogether.
It’s an opposite to the paradigm of hitting a forced bottom and then “surrendering to a higher power” and the quality of that “surrender” determining whether the higher power of 12 Step will grant sobriety or not. The most glaring contrast is that Harm Reduction makes logical sense and is also effective.
Of course, prohibition and drug rehabs work together to create profit for drug cartels, Big Business and their agents. Some argue at this point in time that drug cartels are so powerful that they heavily influence Big Business. So, to state the obvious. Drug rehabs make money off of “addiction” by telling the public that one MUST go to rehab to learn to be abstinent, and the fact that rehab doesn’t tend to work even increases return customers, which increases profit.
Rather than drawing the more logical and obvious conclusion that rehab doesn’t work, the public is convinced (through the propaganda of AA and others) that boxing someone into a death or sobriety corner is useful, humane, and benefits society. Of course, boxing someone into a corner of sobriety or death, just increases the penalties that someone pays who consumes drugs, which through an interesting set of economic laws pertaining specifically to illegal substances like drugs, the higher the cost the consumer pays, the greater the profit for the drug dealer. So, customers dying doesn’t negatively impact profits of drug cartels and would even seem to increase the profits, especially of the agents of drug cartels.
Thus, while you are clearly deep into the ideology that says boxing someone into a corner of death or sobriety is useful, please remember that the costs include the lives of those who are unable to be abstinent on the day they OD, those who love those it kills, and society at large. Also relevant is the likelihood that you personally benefit from the system at this point in time. There is a lot of money involved in continuing to support this sick system that is destroying the USA. Please note that the system is so sick that it’s continuation will come at the potential collapse of society—so in a strange way it is true that society has to embrace Harm Reduction or possibly die. Thus, to state the obvious again, while you are probably personally and financially benefitting from your support and encouragement of rehab system and the ideology that says abstinence or death, it is clearly in the better interest of those you say you want to help for you to abandon your current ideology and begin to pursue Harm Reduction. Also, it isn’t really a question of “if” society will eventually need to legalize drugs or collapse, but a question of “when.” So, you might very well be able to continue promoting rehabs, even if you are mostly promoting death and suffering, and hurting the overall economy and social structure of the USA, your entire life, but then again the collapse might come sooner. So think about what you are betting on.