Our Relationship to Addiction | Steven Slate | TEDxTahoeCity

I'm going to tell you something shocking today you got a taste of it from mark what I'm gonna say is the addiction treatment and everything that we're doing to help those we call addicts isn't curing them it's creating them for the most part I study this and I've lived it I was a heroin user for eight years I love to heroin a lot of that time I really liked using it but ironically when it got bad and when I started to hate it but I was still doing it was right after I got treatment that's when I took a massive turn and I know that this defies a lot of people's expectations well actually I know probably there's a lot of you in the audience also that know somebody they went away to get help and came out worse but generally most people think this treatment thing is supposed to help people right I'm going to introduce a principle related right to that last talk that you heard that explains maybe why treatment and our approach of telling people to have a disease doesn't really work think about when you take your nephew niece your son whoever to the playground and you know he's running around acting like a maniac like an animal uh hanging upside down on the jungle gym like I know I definitely did fell flat on my back um and the kid falls he hurts his knee and he generally is just gonna you know nurse that wound for a minute out you know get up and start running around like a maniac all over again you know that's one way the scenario plays out another way is that you're looking on in terror freaking out thinking that he's got the worst injury ever and then he looks up and makes eye contact with you what happens anybody he cries right goes actually in literally insane goes nuts start screaming running over to you it's like the totally completely different reaction complete opposite you conveyed to him that this was a disaster this minor injury is a disaster and then he goes any experiences as a disaster now he could have experienced it as a minor injury right we brought new meaning to it so as we raise our kids generally in all kinds of realms we're trying to build them up we cheer them on when they you know fall taking their first steps we're like you took a few steps that's great you know when they say the wrong words as they're learning to talk we're just happy that they're learning to talk but when it comes to drugs we jump in there and we say oh my god you've done drugs you're enslaved you're wrecked for the rest of your life and this is a lifelong struggle you can't overcome this you need to be in help of some kind for the rest of your life whether that's going to some meetings or going to ongoing counseling or whatever it is or if it's just daily making sure that you don't encounter triggers or get any stress I mean I don't know how anybody manages to not get stress um but that's the thing that they tell you in treatment is make sure you don't get stressed because you'll relapse okay great most people who use drugs one year the heavy drugs don't use it again the next year and then of the ones that do they don't really get addicted but of the ones that we call addicted all right nine out of ten of people diagnosis addicts eventually get over their problems they resolve their problems and the other thing we need to know is 9 out of 10 people that we call addicts don't get treatment I want you to think about that nine out of ten get over it nine out of ten don't get treatment we always hear this statistic that only 1 in 10 get the treatment they need is if that's a tragedy but several epidemiological studies since the 80s have showed again and again and again that most everybody's getting over it and when you work out the ages it goes up with a age it's not a chronic thing people don't keep relapsing for the rest of their lives 90% of alcoholics will resolve their problem 97.2% of marijuana addicts will get over it ninety nine point two percent of cocaine addicts will get over their problems people get over this yet we think they can't get over it without treatment and when it comes to heroin right that's the one I'm going to talk about because that's what I did recent studies found that 96% of people had resolved their heroin problems if you go back to the 1970s we had this famous one on Vietnam addicts that Vietnam vet heroin addict so you might have heard and ninety-eight percent of them didn't get treatment yet only 12% relapsed within those first few years but of that tiny group that got treatment 67 percent of them relapsed they had this totally different result for the ones that we gave treatment okay um what we see is following treatment people binge more they struggle for longer they have higher relapse rates but basically treatment is like that concerned parent on the playground people come in and you give them that look and you say you're really in for it and and you know most the time when they come in they say I can stop whenever I want we're saying no you can't that's denial you can't really stop you don't really want to do this what you're doing right now right because when somebody says it can't stop that's what they're saying so let me tell you about when I went to rehab this is what happened they waged that relentless campaign to convince me that I wasn't in control and then when I wasn't in the in the sessions they would send all the other patients the experienced patients right the lifers that were back there again to come talk to me because you know that was part of their work to help you know somebody else that's supposed to get them sober at this point right so they come around to tell me these are guys it could be my father uh you know they're that age I was 21 they were in their 40s 50s and they're saying if you don't admit to that you're powerless now you're going to end up like us they said you're going to be shooting up soon just watch everybody shoots up okay and they gave me all these dire predictions that's when I always locked on to because after rehab I started shooting up within a week of leaving and I had been a nasal heroin user for three years before that and it was a line I wouldn't cross and I got this prediction in rehab and I lived it out in rehab they told me how horrible with that withdrawal is well I had used heroin intermittently gone off it gone through withdrawal several times and it was bad it was painful but I never experienced it as compulsion to use but these guys in rehab all talked about how build anything to use when they're going through withdrawal anything so what did I do when I got out I did anything to get heroin whenever I went through withdrawal I robbed from my parents like of everything that they had I shop lifted I wrote bad checks I did whatever I had to do to go get heroin that dude it was like day and night three years before I used intermittently on and off I felt in control it was problematic for sure I'm not saying it wasn't but then for the five years after rehab I was I ended up homeless for a little while I got arrested countless times I ended up in jail for a little while I mean you name it all of that bad stuff that we know about I became that junkie stereotype and I felt hopelessly addicted that whole time I believed basically the rest of my life was going to be a struggle and I learned that in rehab that's where I transformed I learned to think of myself as an addict and to have an addict identity that became my reality and uh it's just like the parent on the playground looking at had I reinterpreted what I was going through I really liked heroin I learned to interpret that like as a compulsion as something foreign so I just dropped a big bomb I said I'm in control of heroin use right and a lot of you are shaking your heads or you're shaking your heads mental exile antennae shaking hands this is heresy right because heroin opiates they're super addictive right to say that people are in control of you their use that's crazy they've been around since 4500 BC with the Sumerians okay opiates have been the most popular drug in history only until a couple hundred years ago nobody talked about being addicted to them but plenty of people over time got physical dependence on opiates went through withdrawal on their own without treatment and every day people come out of the hospital physically dependent on morphine as much as a street hariom heroin user is and then they go through withdrawal on their own and they're fine okay this is because they don't think of themselves as addicted so they don't feel compelled this famous sociologist Alfred Lynn Smith went to study opiate addicts to find out what is it that makes them addicted this was back in the 1940s it was a landmark study and basically what he found was that there was a process of learning and belief and everybody found that became an addict he tells case after case after case of stories where there they were using and then they stopped and they were going through withdrawal and some well-meaning friend or doctor says oh you're hooked and then they start to think of themselves as a junkie go oh I need more I need more heroin or opium or whatever it is and they go get it and they relieve the withdrawal and then they start to learn that oh my god I am this monster you know and they take on this self-image so again that's the parent on the playground sending this message that you don't have withdrawal you know basically you need to know this about withdrawal is that it's almost identical to the flu it feels exactly like a bad case of the flu but then we learn to interpret it as this compulsion to go use so it gets turned into this fatal thing by a fatalistic concept I just I hate these concepts I felt them change me I also hate that people died of overdoses and have friends several friends who died of overdoses so I don't it's not to downplay the danger what Lynn Smith found was that naivety to the concept of addiction is what actually protects people from it and right now we're doing the exact opposite we're telling people watch out don't let your doctor give you those pain pills because you're going to turn into an addict and I I'm going to stop I'm going off my script now I'm going to tell you in April I got a tonsillectomy and I'm 40 years old and it's a bad and it's horribly painful to get a tonsillectomy at that point um and the doctors put me on a dozen percocets a day and I took a dozen percocets a day for two weeks I didn't like the feeling and then I stopped taking them and I didn't relapse and you become an addict it's been 14 years since I've done any heroin you know and there's always this thing oh it's the drug it's it's not okay so people are in control of their substances it's really in the mind now there's obviously so the rehabs directly teach this stuff the treatment programs do but all of us are teaching it we put substance users in a corner where they're practically forced to start thinking of themselves as addicted through tough love and intervention okay we say we're going to take away your place to live we're going to take away you know finances love you can't visit your nieces nephews we're going to take away child custody all these things unless you go to this place that teaches you to think of yourself as addicted unless you take on this identity and degree that you can never touch a drop of alcohol or a hit of a drug ever again right and so we're incentivizing them to go in there and come out and say yeah I'm powerless and I learned really fast in treatment that I'd better say that okay really fast you learn that because guess what your probation officer is going to get a report your parents are going to get a report and if you hold on to any idea that you're in control of yourself you're in denial and you're not going to get a good report so you start to talk the talk and you start to recast your pass as being in out of your control you do this hindsight reasoning on substitutes like oh yeah I don't like that I crashed my car so that therefore I didn't like drinking you did like drinking at the moment when you drink you know so we incentivize that people talk this talk because they're going to lose things we all the other thing that we do is we stigmatize it you know some we don't understand we look at somebody who is losing all this stuff over drugs or alcohol I don't understand that it must be a disease it's that would be like looking at somebody who's homosexual and saying I you know I don't understand it's a disease and by the way we did that historically right and looking at women who want to vote or have a job and we tell them they have hysteria and then they start to manifest all these other symptoms of hysteria um we need to just accept that some people have different wants than us because when we don't right when they learn that it's not accepted what they want their wants are wrong and they think they're a monster they start to disown those wants mentally and that's the process of learning this think of this as a foreign force the disease model is untrue people aren't compelled if you take alcoholics into a laboratory and you somehow sneak alcohol into their drink without them knowing they don't proceed to crave and drink uncontrollably if you take drug addicts into a laboratory you give them meth and you say I'll give you 20 bucks or another hit of meth and just so you know they're getting the 20 bucks later they will choose the 20 bucks almost most of the time there's all these experiments like that that shows that people are choosing it's elements of choice that are involved not disease and then this hijacked brain thing is just way off because we are not going into people's brains with scalpels at most the time are not giving them drugs they are quitting when their brain is at the height of being as adapted by drugs as it could be I want to tell you about how I changed right I went to a program that said throw everything out that you learned okay it was called the st. Jude retreat and they said you don't have a disease you're in control you're doing this because you like it you can stop I did it happened almost overnight and that was in 2002 and I don't struggle I don't do anything to maintain sobriety okay I work for them now I've been working for development for them for the past five years we have a model we call the freedom model and it just says heavy substance use is just a preference it's like every other choice in the world people choose what they believe is going to work for them in the moment sometimes that's ugly like when people are indebted relationships or bad jobs and everybody else can see it and say why don't you get out of there and the person doesn't stop doing it because they think it's the best option have at this moment and with heavy drug use it's the same thing okay you know so basically I teach people you can just throw these ideas out all that information is available out there for free like Mark said he found that information and it helped him I want all of you to consider this maybe adopt some of these ideas really think about this it's compassionate to you don't just need a disease model to be compassionate and if we all get on board with just saying hey it's all right you can want what you want if you want to change that we can talk about what make might make you happier but we don't have to freak out slap this label on people and tell them that they're screwed for the rest of their life most of them tell us they don't think that they're out of control and they don't need treat and guess what most of them get over this without that treatment system know that that's all I have for you today I went over thank you you


  1. I am a recovery addict and I dont agree. Alot of the things he says happens in treatment, never happened when I was there. I know in my heart that treatment saved my life.

  2. I completely disagree. What about all those "experimentors" that die, or shoot someone because they tried to rob and steal for money. I understand where he's going, but he is downplaying the severity of the disease.

  3. In case no one understands this (or doesn’t want to) -YOU HAVE A CHOICE-you have a choice tomorrow morning to have a McDonald’s bacon sausage burger and pancakes or homemade muesli yogurt and fruit…you have a choice… you can wake up tomorrow morning and reach for the cigarettes or go for a light run or a long walk…you have choice… you can wake up tomorrow morning and hit the beer and whiskey or make a fresh kale orange juice smoothie…you have a choice… addiction is a copout… an excuse…finger pointing…don’t blame anything outside yourself… It’s tempting I know…you have the power to walk away if you want…don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise…especially yourself! Drugs will a make good life bad and a bad life worse…just walk away…turn your back and just walk…

  4. Labeling it a disease
    make the individual feels like
    he/she has a life long battle
    towards sobriety for the rest of his life.

    Let say that it is a disease and
    the individual BELIEVES that he/she
    has a life long battle with addiction,
    for the individual to OVERCOME?

    I believe Addicts do not have a disease,
    The are NOT POWERLESS to their addiction
    They are just WEAK to them.

    I also believe the WEAK could be STRENGTHEN thru THERAPY whether
    is physical,mental,emotional…
    these urges convinced the brain to believe
    that the undeniable desire to use
    outweighs the desire and the benefits to quit,

    I believe that the brain was
    conditioned to this mindset
    from the euphoria that the
    drug of choice offers..
    now this mindset has
    gotten the mind to conform
    to the strong desire to use.
    which makes it submit to its cravings
    this is why addicts feel as if it’s
    impossible to achieve sobriety

    Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s is a disease
    that no matter how much meds,will power,
    control,determination or treatment you apply to want to change,quit or cure the behaviorS that comes with the said disease is just IMPOSSIBLE and POWERLESS to the disease

  5. I'm open to this fellow's idea, however I'm a little skeptical. I'm not a fan of the 12 step model, and I completely agree that it's counterproductive to tell people that they're powerless. On the flip side, this gent is assuming causation with correlation – that rehab is creating chronic relapse. I need to see data to be convinced.

  6. People make choices. Ive been on my own since i was 16. I had to work. Mommy and daddy Never babyed me. I learned real quick no one was going to pay my rent. Put me on there cell phone plan. Put me on there insurance plan. And feed me. That was my choice. Im 60. Ive never once asked anyone for help. I learned a trade and worked hard. 60. 70. hour work weeks. What i see today is these kids want it all handed to them.

  7. Who paid for all the treatment. I hope that you were not one of those people that decided to start doing drugs then have Other people pay for you to live and get well. Im sure you had good insurance.

  8. Sorry mate, this is a lesser helpful Ted talks about addiction, in fact could be more harmful, addiction is a disease, fact, period. Step one reads we were powerless over our addiction.. "were" being the operative word..

  9. Yup! My daughters got worse. One daughter is dead. The other is being drugged legally by her mental health doctor. He's her drug dealer now. It's horrible. Legal but not lawful.

  10. I’m a member of aa but I think this guy has some really valid points and thoughts on addiction which I enjoyed, but I don’t think there’s necessarily a right or wrong way of looking at it. I think people need to overcome their addiction in whatever way works for them there’s not just one way. Addiction is by definition an illness. If you look up the term ill and read through fully, you will see there listed characteristics of addiction, a mental illness with physical presentations. Further evidence suggests it is often progressive, chronic, and can be fatal so if that doesn’t qualify it as a disease then I don’t know what does.

  11. I know I am late to the party but just watched this and am in addiction counseling…could you post some of your sources…particularly the 9/10 recovery without treatment?

  12. Maybe we should listen to recovered addicts more often than those in suits and their labs who say they know better.
    Thumbs up! And I also recommend listening to Marc Lewis, a scientist and former addict, he has the same approach.

    I also have a feeling that people who strongly oppose Steven's words are those who are attached mentally to the concept of disease and don't want to give it up and feel like the responsibility is on them again. Although nothing is easy and once you're hooked on something, it will take efforts and mental strength to battle the addiction, I personally prefer the thought of being able to fight it myself once and for all than to feel helpless and forever addicted.

  13. If you or someone you know has been affected by the disease of addiction come find online support with people who care. Find us on Facebook @ No Addict Left Behind. Resources may be available.

  14. The information & statistics given at the beginning of this talk are extremely inaccurate. The purpose of identifying as an addict is also being misrepresented.

  15. not sure where these stats are coming from, but I KNOW without a doubt (because I tried for years to quit on my own) I could and would not have done this on my own. Like I said, I tried for years… Think about it. If I could have succeeded on my own — I would have! What you're saying sounds like nonsense.

    Today I have 37 yrs. w/o a drink or drug because of the help I received, including the tools and strategies I used to overcome this addiction. However, I've watched 3 friends of my daughter's die (kids that once played in my home when they were little) two from an overdose and one from alcohol poisoning, because no one knew, AND an alcoholic soccer dad (from way back) who committed suicide due to excessive alcohol consumption and depression. He refused treatment. The thing is: maybe treatment would have helped — or maybe it wouldn't have… but I know these families are still grief-stricken, and will never know if rehab "might" have changed the outcome..

    So what are your thoughts on this? These are 4 people in MY life that died way too young from addiction. Would you tell these kids parents that they must have drew the short stick because it is your understand that the majority of addicts recover from addiction on their own? Personally, I think you're blowing smoke. Total nonsense.

  16. addiction treament creates addicts. how do addicts first come into contact with treatment options??? they werent addicts before. seriously screwed up opinions from this guy.

  17. From this, I do feel that I caused this due to me thinking I was doing the right thing with my son. Long story

  18. This is not maybe true it's 100% true the St. Jude Retreat saved my life, had I of gone to a 12 step rehab I have no doubt it would have killed me.

  19. I spent years using without any treatment. Never heard of meetings. And when I went through withdrawal it was no good at all and i stole to get that rush again and get feeling better. No one had to tell me id feel better I knew the best hit was when i was sick. This is very bias based on his experience. When i eventually read a NA book it was CRAZY. I was reading who id been all those years. It was likr i wrote part of the book. Its crazy like literally I hared using and couldn't ever stop. Reading others went through the same thing was a game changer. I was no longer alone and on the fringe I now had a community. And i don't know what treatment he went to….. This guy is half right half the time. I appreciate and understand him but he's basing everything hes saying with or without research on his own experience….

  20. Picks an chooses his studies and some of the issues he brought up was quite ridiculous addiction is a prediction and the withdrawal worsens each time you stop and beyond a flu sighting the Vietnam coming home to no connection to the drug environment is epic an if your wanting to recover i would skip this video it will give you a false sense of everything sorry but give this info to a addict won't help

  21. The argument on both sides of this isn't even needed. It's simple, if it works for YOU stick with it. We all don't operate on the same belief systems. If A.A works good ! If you require a different approach, then use it. Simple !

  22. can see how that could be true.. if the more they focus on it being a problem the more it's unstoppable..

  23. lol working for a treatment center and helping addicted people recover is a huge maintenance for recovery.

  24. Sorry kiddo. Your argument is full of holes. You are generalizing from your experience. The man wearing sandals thinks the whole world is covered with leather. Of course some people don't have addiction and get mixed in with those who do. We know much about the mechanisms involved in the disease. Also your characterization of treatment is weird.

  25. It presents as an either/or perspective. Recovery is more subjective than that. Recovery is as varied as the individual. It's not as tribal as this guy posits. X

  26. Anyway, I am surrendering this discussion. I just get passionate when someone starts saying that treatment is not at all necessary. I've known many, and work with many, who have found treatment very necessary. Who had tried for long periods to stop, control, or cut-down, by choice.
    I hope you do well, keep up the work.

  27. Awesome perspective on a major problem. I had heard from other sources that isolation and labeling an addict is bad, but never with the reasons given here. Giving someone the power that they have the ability to consciously choose their future instead of telling them they have a hopeless lifelong problem, and then helping them reacclimiate into society, I think is a powerful combination to end the addiction cycle. Thanks for a GREAT talk Steven, stay strong!

  28. Right on. It was so nice and I should say liberating to see someone stand up and articulate what I've been thinking and feeling so well. Half of the problem is due to a lack of understanding and the other half is shrugging responsibility. Then you throw in the money and viola. You have a massive rehab industry and AA brainwash cults that are RUINING and DESTROYING lives. It's a reflection of a ignorant society that the tentacles of stupidity have even reached the judicial system. Some gets a DUI and they can get off if some AA moderator signs a court slip? Give me a break. Either people don't take this seriously or they are stupid.

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