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  • Report looks at captured nature of BC’s Oil and Gas Commission August 6, 2019
    From an early stage, BC’s Oil and Gas Commission bore the hallmarks of a captured regulator. The very industry that the Commission was formed to regulate had a significant hand in its creation and, too often, the interests of the industry it regulates take precedence over the public interest. This report looks at the evolution […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Correcting the Record July 26, 2019
    Earlier this week Kris Sims and Franco Terrazzano of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation wrote an opinion piece that was published in the Calgary Sun, Edmonton Sun, Winnipeg Sun, Ottawa Sun and Toronto Sun. The opinion piece makes several false claims and connections regarding the Corporate Mapping Project (CMP), which we would like to correct. The […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Rental Wage in Canada July 18, 2019
    Our new report maps rental affordability in neighbourhoods across Canada by calculating the “rental wage,” which is the hourly wage needed to afford an average apartment without spending more than 30% of one’s earnings.  Across all of Canada, the average wage needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment is $22.40/h, or $20.20/h for an average one […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Towards Justice: Tackling Indigenous Child Poverty in Canada July 9, 2019
    CCPA senior economist David Macdonald co-authored a new report, Towards Justice: Tackling Indigenous Child Poverty in Canada­—released by Upstream Institute in partnership with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA)—tracks child poverty rates using Census 2006, the 2011 National Household Survey and Census 2016. The report is available for […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Fossil-Power Top 50 launched July 3, 2019
    What do Suncor, Encana, the Royal Bank of Canada, the Fraser Institute and 46 other companies and organizations have in common? They are among the entities that make up the most influential fossil fuel industry players in Canada. Today, the Corporate Mapping Project (CMP) is drawing attention to these powerful corporations and organizations with the […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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Response to Johann Hari’s TED Talk on Addiction

This is a guest blog post from Doug Chaudron:

British journalist Johann Hari recently gave a TED talk, provocatively titled “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong.” See the 15-minute talk, and find Hari’s biography, at http://tinyurl.com/o5kp779.

Some key points made by Mr. Hari in his talk include these: Current approaches to treatment don’t seem to work well; taking “addictive” drugs doesn’t always result in addiction; rats given appealing alternatives to drug use rarely become drug users; creating social connectedness and opportunities might work better than punishing addicts.

The speech is quite engaging, and for me depressing. The depressing part is that the research (e.g., Alexander’s Rat Park) and the conceptual alternatives he discusses have been well known in the addictions business for decades. So, there is nothing new here, and it’s depressing to learn that the speaker, and TED Talks organizers, thought that this was news. It’s not news at all. At the time of my retirement from Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, in 1999, Rat Park and related conceptual alternatives had been discussed for about 20 years.

Equally, even more, depressing is that the concepts have not “penetrated” the addiction-treatment industry. For an equal number of decades, research has shown that: shorter treatment is as effective as, or more effective than, longer treatment; outpatient treatment is as effective as, or more effective than, inpatient treatment; treatment by modestly-trained counselors is as effective as, or more effective than, treatment by heavily-trained experts; and brief interventions are as effective as, or more effective than, extensive and intensive interventions. But the treatment industry continues to prescribe long-term, intensive, inpatient treatment delivered by highly-trained experts.

I therefore wish that Mr. Hari would stop worrying about finding a new understanding of addiction (at which he has not succeeded), and instead worry about why the best information is not being used. As it turns out, there has been research on this issue. Of course there is the inertia of ideology, but research also leads to the discovery that the less-effective forms of treatment involve the making of more MONEY by their providers than the proven alternatives. Surprise, surprise…

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