Summary and Analysis

In this article, Dr. Stanton Peele makes the observation that there is much to learn about addiction treatment approaches by studying non-drug addictions. According to Dr. Peele, basing “addiction” on something other than a drugs’ physical affects is crucial to understanding it. In his view, if the characteristics of addiction are routinely exhibited with non-drug behaviors, the notion that addiction is a unique property of drug effects on the body or brain doesn’t hold up.

Citing a phenomenon called natural recovery (recovery from unassisted means), Peele states that most people who develop addictions recover on their own over time, sometimes without total abstinence.

Excerpted from

This article was authored by Dr. Stanton Peele, a psychologist who has pioneered, among other things, the idea that addiction occurs with a range of experiences and a recognition of natural recovery from addiction. The article highlights several stories of real people who have recovered from drug addiction without any specific interventions. He makes the point that we rarely seem to hear these kinds of stories in the major media, certainly at the level of public debate.

Peele mentions the study of Vietnam veterans experience with heroin addiction where over 90 percent of veterans who reported being addicted to heroin in Vietnam ceased their addiction within a short period on their return, almost always without treatment. The Vietnam experience demonstrates that some people can move past addiction when their surroundings improve, that they are no more likely to use one drug compulsively than any other, and that having fewer positive life options obstructs natural recovery.