So sorry for the lack of posting today. I just returned from a business trip to Las Vegas, which is hell on earth. MA insists that’s because I haven’t seen the “real Las Vegas” — which, from my hotel room, looked like a relentless grid of warehouses, cardboard apartment complexes, strip malls and billboards. I swear, if any place can convince me that Henry Rollins is correct in saying that alcohol is an “ocean of mediocrity,” Las Vegas can. And apparently MA is out dodging moose and engaging in his civic responsibilities for the day.
I’m sure he’ll be back with something substantial, but until then…
I was just listening to the Nancy Skinner Show on the radio, and she had Dr. Harold Urschel, M.D. on as a guest. He is the founder of the Urschel Recovery Science Institute, and has recently published a book called Healing the Addicted Brain: The Revolutionary Science-Based Alcoholism and Addiction Recovery Program. I heard only about 5 minutes of the interview, but I looked him up when I came home (which was a pain in the ass because I thought his name was “Herschel,” and it took me a while to find the right guy).
When I tuned in, he was beginning to discuss the fact that the addictions treatment industry is based almost entirely on talk therapy (AA and addictions counseling), even though addiction effects the brain, both psychologically and physiologically. His Web site gives a quick overview of this distinction:
Chemical dependence addiction affects two parts of the brain directly — the cortex and the limbic regions. The cortex is related to the psychological aspect of addiction. We use individual counseling to “repair” this part of the brain. In contrast, the limbic region controls the drive dimension (our drive to eat, drink and perpetrate the species) of addiction. We use pharmaceuticals to treat this.
While he was discussing this, he made a defensive, “don’t get me wrong” type of statement regarding AA, saying that AA is actually a great resource (I can’t remember the exact word that he used to describe AA, but it was something like that: “wonderful,” “fantastic,” “bitchin’,” “very effective,” something enormously positive.) But then he went on to discuss different medicines that have been successful in treating addiction, such as Vivitrol (which is administered as a montly shot) and touched on some others. A couple of other points he was able to squeeze in before his time was up are that alcoholism is the 3rd leading cause of death in America (105,000), behind heart disease, which, he pointed out, is treated correctly with medication, as a physical disease. He also claims a 90% recovery rate.
90%! I’d believe him, if he didn’t follow that up by claiming that figure is 3-times the recovery rate of AA alone. In other words, he actually does give credence to some totally ass interpretation of AA recovery statistics, or he uses the same methodology.
I thought, first, that he was defending AA reflexively, the same way someone might say “no offense, but…,” because they don’t want to be rained down on by the fire on a thousand angry suns for speaking against conventional wisdom. And second, I though, maybe he just doesn’t know what he’s saying. But then, after looking over his Web site, it’s clear that he does know what he’s saying. His Institute works hand-in-hand with 12-step programs, and my sense is that either he is trying to join the people he can’t beat, or he is a True Believer, trying to haul his cult into the 21st century so that it can perpetuate itself with some credibility.
Urschel could have connected with treatment options outside the 12-step community — as there are several — but from the looks of it, he has chosen not to. Someone with the education Urschel has must know — as Speedy points out — that AA is circling the drain, and as MA points out so often, can’t hold its own scientifically and statistically. So, I believe, he’s chosen AA as an ally, disingenuously.
But, of course, I have not read the book, and I don’t know what I’m talking about. So, one of us will review it (I hope that someone will be MA). And if you’ve read it, would you please post your review in the comments?
[Edited because it is against the law to use the word “disingenuous” twice in one post.]