Abstinence too dangerous?

Interesting reading about professional helpers’ fear of abstinence at wired in to recovery.

Peapod says, “While the ‘it’s too dangerous to try for abstinence’ argument is widespread in treatment settings, my own belief is that it is a rationalisation for maintaining the status quo.”

I think it goes beyond the status quo issue. The context is much different here in the States, harm reduction and methadone are not dominant here, but there are very similar sentiments among those providers here. I believe that it comes down to a few common core beliefs in many (not all) workers in these field:

  • that addicts can’t or won’t achieve full recover
  • that drug use (including addiction) is voluntary or a lifestyle choice and that the liberty to choose drug use should trump other values
  • to encourage recovery is to moralize

These discussions always remind me of a friend describing an NA t-shirt from a conference years ago. The shirt says, “The lie is exposed–we can recover.”

4 thoughts on “Abstinence too dangerous?

  1. Your interpretation rings true. I was talking to someone who works in harm reduction the other day. He asked me what our ‘success rates’ were in our service. I told him our medium term recovery rates (50-60%). He looked incredulous. ‘But not opiate addicts?’ he said. ‘Predominantly opiate addicts’ I replied. I don’t think he believed me.Your views would add to our debate. Would you mind if I post them (with credits), or better still you’d be welcome to post them yourself?


  2. Feel free to repost them. As an outsider, I tend to be a little reluctant to jump into your debates out of worries that I’m missing some context and that I’ll inflame things. Something like this happened last year with Sarah McGrail.Feel free to repost anything, anytime. Just link back to my post.Best regards.


  3. I work with a complete model of abstinence in past treatment center and now support recovery setting. I do not at all agree in harm reduction in that it enables individuals to still use but in less harmful ways. The Canadian Govt. is involved with this model, and I believe it just enables the Addict/Alcoholic to use more but less frequently which as the disease progresses never works. It is a license for DOCTORS TO WRITE SCRIPTS FOR methadone and there is money in it for them.


  4. isn’t using, ‘but in a less harmful’ way sort of like binge drinking? Eventually the addict will let loose.


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