Letter: Accurate Understanding of Addiction Is Key

To the Editor:

“Vt. Report: Go Slow on Methadone Sites” (Jan. 21) inadvertently highlights a key aspect of the challenges involved in reducing the harm caused by addiction in our culture. Peter Albert of the Brattleboro Retreat is referred to (but not quoted) as having spoken of addicts being “more likely to conquer their addictions” under certain conditions.

Do conditions matter? They do, of course. But can addictions be conquered? They cannot.

Like diabetes, asthma or hypertension, addiction is a chronic condition that can be treated but not conquered or cured. We’ll need all the effort we can muster in order to improve recovery outcomes, but it will have to be an appropriate effort if we’re to succeed. And we can’t expect success when we frame the solution or the problem inaccurately.

Happily, Vermont is at the leading edge in addressing the crisis of addiction, as evidenced by the mindful approach to statewide support for opiate addiction treatment depicted in your story. And that commitment is a good thing. As the late former surgeon general and Hanover resident C. Everett Koop put it in 2007: “Addiction affects every family and every individual in America. I know of no disease — and addiction is a disease of epidemic proportions — that has a greater negative effect on the sufferer’s life, productivity, and health. The proven programs of recovery are the only answer, and addiction treatment services to support these programs may be our most pressing health care need.”

Let’s all support accurate understanding of addiction, and of recovery. When someone recovers, everyone wins.

Chris Weinmann