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on 1 January 2008
The Truth About Addiction and Recovery has to be the best, most comprehensive book on the subject. The book is cogent and intelligently written. It's impeccably sourced. It was a delight to read and have EVERY single question and doubt I've had answered somewhere in this volume.

I'm troubled by the reviewer who titles his review, Disturbing, and states, "Any work that claims to be THE definitive answer to an enormously complex problem should be approached with caution." That sounds like a rational statement. However, Stanton Peele's research isn't based on feeling, like the AA model. It's based on numerous studies by many different scientists done over the past several decades that have drawn the same conclusion OVER and OVER again. And, the conclusion is that it's NOT a disease-- despite the AMA and despite AA and despite every single organization that says it is. The proof lies in this point-- that there hasn't been even ONE successful study that has proven otherwise-- even when the study was created to PROVE that it was a disease.

AA ADMITS in it's own data that only 5% of AA members remain alcohol abstinent. The data that has been proven over and over again is that this number is LESS than those that quit drinking without AA. Additionally, a recent Harvard University Study stated that 80% of those that have quit drinking did it on their own. This goes against the disease model and AA approach. Many can moderate their drinking successfully or quit successfully altogether. This goes against the disease model and AA approach, too. Stanton Peele's book shows us the studies and data that support that once addicted DOES NOT MEAN ALWAYS ADDICTED. Unless, of course, one has bought into the AA philosophy and has now accepted that they are permanently sick and out of control. This is the crux of this argument. Studies have shown that those that have bought into this philosophy wind up having a lower self-image than those that have not, and they wind up believing they are permanently sick and completely unable to manage their lives-- thereby buying into the belief that they are "out of control". The focus is never about getting better in AA (I know they say otherwise)-- the focus is on STAYING 'sick', STAYING in AA, and STAYING permanently in a "RECOVERY" state. The focus, truthfully, is in keeping old folkwisdom alive even though every bit of evidence shows us that there are proven better ways. To add insult to injury, anyone who doubts this model is accused of being in denial, and everyone who remains alcohol abstinent without AA is accused of being a dry drunk (not "sober" according to AAspeak. Hello? Isn't this supposed to be a quit-drinking program?

The problem AAers have (like the reviewer I quoted before) is that this proof (that is shown so coherently here) completely pulls their chairs out from underneath them. I understand this, too. If everything I believed was taken away from me and proven to be false, it would certainly undermine my own confidence in my ability to make decisions. And, so far, although the twelve-step "treatment" (although why we continue to call it treatment when it hasn't successfully treated anything) philosophy has continued to permeate our culture, there is absolutely no evidence at all to suggest that it is beneficial. On the contrary. The evidence proves it hasn't been and that there are better ways that have been proven to work (for instance, Community Resource and Family Training, Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, and Cognitive Therapy, as well as other approaches) scientifically.
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on 28 October 1998
This is NOT a book for people who are perfectly happy in AA; there are plenty of books out there for you. This book is GREAT, however, for those of us who have ended up feeling as though AA has outlived it's usefulness, or those who wonder if they ever really belonged in "the Program" at all. I spent nearly five years in AA, and that it saved my life at the time I joined I cannot deny. Eventually, I had to leave--I simply couldn't stand it any more. I began to wonder: was I truly diseased,or had I just been an immature, insecure person who drank to drown a mountain of fear? I began looking for alternatives, and found this book. I've been drinking again for five years, with no dire consequences; nobody would guess I ever needed AA! I can't recommend this book enough. There are NO miracles here, NO faith-healing, NO catchy little phrases--just lots of good, rational common sense for those who want to move on--whether you choose to drink again or not.
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on 19 December 1996
This book is for people who are serious about making
changes in their lives. The author doesn't tread lightly;
instead while he acknowledges that many factors affect
our lives, only we have the ability to change for the
better; and that we can do this in spite of all obstacles
WHEN WE ARE READY. Whether you are heavily into drug
(or computer!) use, addicted to nicotine, or are just an
'average joe' with no obvious problems, I believe this
book can change your life for the better.
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on 14 April 1999
This book trounces the idea that addiction is a biologically determined disease that requires 12 step treatment. Even herion addicts say that cigarrettes are the most addictive substance -- and most people quit smoking on their own.
Most people who use cocaine (and other drugs) do not use it regularly, those who use it regularly do not become addicted and those who become addicted recover on their own. Sound outrageous? Citing several thorough sociological studies, this statement becomes more and more believable as you read this book.
I used to think that behavioral compulsions, like addictions to sex and food, were different from substance abuse. Surely shooting heroin involves a chemical dependency, whereas overeating or spending all your money on porn and peep shows is a sign of psychological escape, right? Some say that all such behaviors are biological, but that sounded preposterous to me. This book drove home the idea that ALL addiction, be it abusing credit cards or smoking crack cocaine, is a symptom of a life out of control, not the cause. The book clearly illustrates how people become addicted when their lives lack meaning and hope, during painful transitions, and when they don't have the life skills or coping skills to ride out the rough edges of life.
Why is smoking crack considered more addictive than sniffing powder? People who smoke crack are generally people who live in the desperation of the inner cities, so they have less *motivation* to overcome their addiction, not a stronger drug.
Any serious student of sociology or psychology should read this book.
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on 14 March 2004
The fact that the reviewer from Oz talks about codependence shows how ingrained a lot of this 12-step rot is. AA and other Programs that work in this way do so through fear, shame, guilt and control. The Higher Power that is often talked about isn't anything outside of ourselves, rather it is us. We choose whether we engage in practises that are unhealthy or not and there's nothing supernatural about it. This is an excellent book which goes some way to dispelling a lot of the myths surrounding alcoholism and addiction. Just because millions(?) of people are engaged in something doesn't mean that it isn't a heap of old nonsense. Highly recommended.
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on 27 April 1999
Stanton Peele has a controversial view of addictions, be it to substances or behaviors. The question he asks of those who believe that the drug itself hooks people is, "Even if the substance is incredibly euphoric or blocks pain, what makes the person favor that experience over other rewarding experiences?" He strongly disputes that addiction is biological disease and that the 12 Steps are the only treatment - indeed they may be worse than no treatment at all.
I've always disputed that things like sex, food, and shopping could be addictions, without denying that people can clearly go overboard with such things to ignore inner turmoil or avoid responsibilities they can't cope with, or because they lack relationship skills. Peele's view is that this characterizes *all* addiction, and treatment should involve learning coping, communication and interpersonal skills. The biggest controversy surrounding Peele, however, is his assertion that most people gain life skills naturally as they mature -- when people get jobs or find something they care for and have better things to do then get smashed -- making clinical treatment unnecessary for addictions in young people. He sites sociological studies that show that most drug users "mature out" of drug use, even if the drug use involved drug binges or other obvious addictive behavior.
Still think that some drugs are just more "addictive" than others? Is it the drug or the person taking them? What makes a person take a hard-hitting drug to begin with? I had never really thought before what it meant that crack was more "addictive" than cocaine. As crack is mostly consumed in poor, degraded environments leading most into dead-end lives, what motivation - what opportunity - does one have to put down the pipe get a life? This book makes a strong case for looking at environment, sociological and psychological factors in addiction, not brain chemistry.
This book also opened my eyes to what happens to people who don't go through therapy or drug treatment. I only looked at the statistics that evaluated people *in* treatment, not those who never went! When you consider how most therapy, especially the 12-steps do not address life skills and in fact hinder them with their rhetoric of powerlessness and doomed childhood, its not really a surprise that untreated people have the same or better outcome as people in treatment.
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on 16 April 1998
When one is searching for answers, whether for others or for self, a paradym begins to develop. Many times, this new way of thinking does not mirror that in normal acceptance. So it is with abuse/dependencies. One can read, and participate, in 12 Step philosophies, but there is always something seen or felt as 'lacking'. Rather than 'lacking', perhaps a better word (or companion word) would be 'longing'. A longing for something better. A longing that your new way of thinking about life, your paradym, is not ill-advised or unsound, much less 'psychotic'.
'Is there not another person on earth who believes the way you do?'
I found a positive answer in Dr. Peele's book. And I must say, I found much, much more than I had envisioned thus far.
Now I'm at a point in my life when I believe it is possible for current treatment modalities, based solely or largely on 12 Step, to be harmful. Belief in a system that inforces powerlessness is dangerous, if not deadly. Current drug/alcohol treatment must be changed and changed quickly.
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on 12 June 2008
I'm not an AA devotee nor a devotee to any form of recovery. But I can honestly say all the "Anonymous" programmes are off-putting to so many people. This book is a doorway to help for those who do not want a very American, very religious focused path to recovery.

Not only religious or spiritual people need help recovering from substance abuse. People who want an approach that works without the cult-like feel of the 12-step programmes cannot do better than to start here.

I believe this reivew, like all those that praise this approach, will get slammed by those lurking 12-steppers (not representative of all) who are intolerant and afraid of other approaches gaining sway. That's a shame... but for those looking for something to help without the baggage, this book will set you on a great path.
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on 3 October 2014
Very good book! Very informative on the subject! Well worth the read!
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on 15 October 2007
There are now millions of people in the world who owe their lives and liberation from addiction to the Twelve Step programme developed by AA. It is extraordinary that Stanton Peele and so many other would-be 'recovery gurus' choose to ignore this salient fact.

There are a great many vicious and groundless attacks against AA in this book - a book which, for its own part, offers almost nothing that is positive or constructive as an alternative.

AA and the other anonymous fellowships have many decades of successful experience in helping people to recover from addictions and to rebuild their lives. When Stanton Peele and the other vendors of 'miracle-cures' can say as much, they might be worth listening to.

If you wish to be bored by Peele's catechism of envy, resentment and disinformation, buy this book. If you wish to get well and stay well, avoid it like the plague - and go to one of the anonymous fellowships.
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