Rethinking What it Means to Recover from Addiction


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When I kicked cocaine and heroin in 1988, I was told that there was only one way to get better: abstain forever from psychoactive substances including alcohol—and practice the 12 steps made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous. The only alternative, counselors and group members said, was “jails, institutions or death.”
My addiction was so extreme that by the end, I was injecting dozens of times a day. So I grabbed the lifeline I was thrown and attended the traditional 12-step rehab program recommended by the hospital where I underwent withdrawal.
But once I began to study the scientific data on addiction, I learned that these claims were not accurate. In fact, research shows that most people who meet full diagnostic criteria for having an addiction to alcohol or other drugs rec…

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