Addictions: The impacts of ‘Binary Thinking’ on Treatment and Recovery

My readers will know, I’ve commented previously about the stale “Addiction is a Disease” debate (see here). But whether addiction is a ‘disease’ or not (see an Interview with Dr. Sally Satel) is mostly irrelevant. The debate is something that is mostly perpetuated by the addiction treatment ‘industry’ or, those who might be searching for ‘reasons’ to rationalise or justify their behaviours.

In a TEDex talk (Addiction: Facts and Comforting Fictions), delivered to the 2019 conference of the American National Council for Behavioral Health, Doctor Sally Satel discussed the “comforting fictions” around substance addiction. She offered some pertinent thoughts that help to debunk that commonly held [unhelpful] belief… “addiction doesn’t discriminate” (see below).

Like Dr Satel, I also believe one of the biggest follies in addiction recovery treatment and support is; the constant but narrow and often binary rationales around delivery of addiction treatment and support.

Much of this binary thinking is designed to support the extremities of political and public discourse. Or worse, delivered to perpetuate income growth for individuals and organisations in the field of addictions treatment, particularly in America.

These labels create stigmatising demography and are mostly unhelpful (in reality); to anyone other than the practitioners, scientists and politicians. They lead to unintended and mostly negative consequences, for the individual seeking recovery and for our wider society!

Books by Satel

In her book PC, M.D: How Political Correctness is Corrupting Medicine, Dr Satel documents what happens when the tenets of political correctness-including victimology, multiculturalism, and the rejection of fixed truths and individual autonomy-are allowed to enter the fortress of medicine.

The scientific advances of brain scan technology, along with other neurotechnologies have provided ground-breaking insights into the workings of the human brain however; there is increasingly fashionable ideology that suggests, that they are the most important means of answering the enduring mysteries of psychology. Satel believes this is “misguided, and potentially dangerous” see – Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience.

Dr Satel also contributed to a book that highlights how, as a society, we have come to expect other people (or the state) to fix all our ills. See – One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture Is Eroding Self-Reliance.

About Dr Satel: is the author of several publications and was an assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University from 1988 to 1993 and remains a lecturer at Yale.

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