Regular readers know I frequently write about my belief that AA and other abstinence-only programs are doomed to fail and are not the way we should be approaching people with drinking problems. Here’s a couple of recent articles to add to the mounting evidence that our peculiar dogma about addiction is unraveling.
The first is Addicts Are Made, Not Born: And It’s Not the Drugs That Create Them, which was in SF Weekly. It covers a study done at Columbia University that concluded that the “[m]ost commonly held fears about meth are unfounded, just as they were with crack, just as they were with marijuana.”
“The science points to opportunity and surroundings as the key factors in determining who ends up ‘addicted.’ Provided choice, people will opt not to start on the road to being a fiend. Given nothing else to do, they may try drugs.” So we continue to attack the drugs, or the alcohol, but ignore the reasons people try them. Brilliant.
The second was in Psychology Today, entitled Failure as the Antidote to Addiction, which suggests that by never allowing kids to fail at anything, they never learn how to deal with adversity, or more importantly, overcome it. It seems like the same thing as with disease, where by keeping everything totally sterile and hygienic, we don’t build up the immunities to fight diseases when we encounter them.
The article features a school in Pennsylvania that’s letting kids fail at small tasks and then giving them the tools to learn from them.
Failure is an indispensable part of all innovation. When students design or build something and it fails, everyone can see that it failed; there is nothing abstract or removed about it. The most important part of the learning process is what happens next: trying to figure out why it failed and what can be done to fix it. This is how students learn to be resilient.
The other benefit is that students who learn to fail are less likely to become addicts later in life. Because “[a]ddicts react to challenges and failure by. . . you know. Somehow they failed to learn that failure is a necessary part of living, the only route to success, to coping, to dealing with the universe. And learning how to cope with failure can only occur when people, kids, encounter reality directly.”
I also think that’s why we need alcohol education, and not continue to have policies that keep kids away from alcohol or people drinking it. It, too, creates the same dangerous situation where they know nothing about the etiquette of drinking and end up bingeing in secret, which is far more dangerous, and which is also the whole point of the Amethyst Initiative.