Addiction: An “Incurable Disease”?

Sad Man
Studies have shown that 12-step drug rehabilitation programs have, by one estimate, as low as a 5% success rate. Though concrete evidence is hard to come by, it’s not uncommon to hear that someone has joined “the program,” and later relapsed. Yet, despite these dismal examples, persons seeking sobriety continue to flood weekly, and even daily, meetings. There are many people who wonder why these individuals continue to attend these meetings; simply put, these programs are state-funded and membership is free. But some have started to question whether the basic concept by which 12-step programs operate, which states that addiction is a disease, might be false, thus doing more harm to addicts than good. In fact, some speculate that the “addiction as a disease” manifesto enables further addiction.

“No Known Cure”

Rehabilitation programs adhering to the 12-step outline express the sentiment that there is “no known cure” for addiction. This means that addiction is a disease, like cancer, and if you have it, you will never (and should never) stop attempting to recover from it. Yet this ism is defeating for those who prescribe to it, because if an addict is made to believe that he or she suffers from something “incurable,” then he or she has been made to believe they will never actually triumph. Their mindset is configured for failure, which enables the back and forth between using and recovering.

Responsibility for Addiction

The Baldwin Research Institute’s mission statement reads To Change the Treatment Industry to a Solution that Works. In 2003, the Institute published an online article titled “Alcoholism: A Disease of Speculation.” To paraphrase, the article asserts that calling addiction a disease “has proven to be far more damaging to the substance user anyone could have predicted.” It attempts to refute the idea that a disease concept helps patients “to understand the seriousness of [his/her] problems” and instead, the article goes on, substance users are absolved from his or her own responsibility for their addiction. “A disease cannot be cured by force of will,” the article declares, in direct opposition to the 12-step program credo and its expectation of members.

In truth, the 12-step drug rehabilitation program does not instill their members with the belief that they must abstain from drugs through the very force of their willpower, but instead leads the addict to believe that he or she has a “disease,” putting the addiction outside of his or her control. It’s contradictory and therefore to be expected that the success rate for 12-step programs is so dismal. It could be argued that the very foundation upon which 12-step programs are based is faulty, offering no real solution and no way for the addict to take back control over his or her life.

How Do We Enable Success?

It seems that the base for a successful drug rehabilitation program should, then, provide members with a foundation upon which overcoming addiction is not only feasible, but the ultimate goal; a goal that CAN, in fact, be reached. Instead of labeling addiction as a disease with no cure, it should be regarded, and therefore treated, like an obstacle which can be overcome by the user’s force of will and the power of his or her inner strength. Programs like these do exist! It might come as no surprise, too, that these alternative drug rehabilitation programs proudly hold a higher success rate than any 12-step program.

You can read the entire article along with many other related articles by the Baldwin Research Institute on Alcoholism and Drug Addiction by visiting, as a part of a national campaign to help drug and alcohol addicts, features contact information for over 3,000 drug rehab and treatment centers nationwide. Overcoming addiction or alcoholism is a complex process that involves more than just the patient him or herself. We recognize the need addicts have for a comprehensive recovery, and we know that the addict seriously in search of rehabilitation cannot do it alone.
Happy Man