I’ve seen a commercial on TV by someone who claims that his program ‘cures’ addiction. And I noticed you saying there is no cure. Who’s right?” 

I haven’t seen the ad, but I can explain my reasoning, at least. It’s based on experience.

When I was a young counselor, a patient showed up in detox swearing he had been sober for 25 years (confirmed by his family) and then made a conscious decision to return to drinking because he believed himself to be cured. Obviously, he was wrong. Over the years I met a dozen other people with variations of this tale. Some had actually managed to drink in a controlled fashion for extended periods, but nothing like permanently.

When I think of a ‘cure’ for alcoholism, I mean the ability to drink without further problems. There may be chronic alcoholics who have regained that ability, but I haven’t met them. It’s a big universe and somebody may have achieved it. But as far as I can tell, not drinking remains the treatment of choice.

It’s easier for me to conceive of alcoholism the way I do diabetes. With treatment, your blood sugar may be under good control. That can change, however, because the underlying disorder remains.

Same with methadone maintenance. I don’t know too many professionals who would advise a patient that he can safely resume using other opiates after five or ten years on methadone.

This came up at one point with regards to a book I wrote with Ron Rogers. The editor — himself recovering — added a blurb on the back cover, claiming we could ‘cure’ alcoholism. He felt he was cured, you understand, and wanted that message to go out to the public.

We asked him to remove it, and he did.