Lewis’s argument is actually fairly simple: The disease theory, and the science sometimes used to support it, fail to take into account the plasticity of the human brain. Of course, “the brain changes with addiction,” he writes. “But the way it changes has to do with learning and development — not disease.” All significant and repeated experiences change the brain; adaptability and habit are the brain’s secret weapons. The changes wrought by addiction are not, however, permanent, and while they are dangerous, they’re not abnormal. Through a combination of a difficult emotional history, bad luck and the ordinary operations of the brain itself, an addict is someone whose brain has been transformed, but also someone who can be pushed further along the road toward healthy development. (Lewis doesn’t like the term “recovery” because it implies a return to the addict’s state before the addiction took hold.)
I could turn this into an epic rant against the Disease Model or against 12 Step programs, but I’d rather you just go and check out the post at Salon, or even better, just check out and read the book itself and cut Salon out of the deal completely. Of course, I can’t completely stop myself from bitching, so….
Without a doubt, AA and similar programs have helped a lot of people.
No article on addiction treatment can be complete, no matter how antithetical it may be to them, without sucking off the 12 Steps.