Press Trivializes the Treatment Process and Devalues the Suffering

Jeffrey C Friedman

I read this morning that Casey Johnson, heiress to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, died alone in her Los Angeles apartment after a well-publicized life of drugs and partying. I feel sad to hear yet another story of a celebrity who succumbs to addiction after cycling in and out of a series of boutique rehabs.

If you follow the news the story is familiar. Train wrecks of pop check into posh $100,000-a-month beachfront rehabs, where they demand – and appear to receive – special indulgence. In my mind this kind of press trivializes the treatment process and devalues the suffering that I see every day as a therapist at Cottonwood Tucson. In the morning paper I read of the rich and famous going to treatment to save face and then go to work and treat less famous patients who struggle to save their lives. Too often, the news media leave general public with the notion that treatment doesn’t work.

I know better. As an “in the trenches” clinician, I see overwhelming evidence that treatment does in fact work. While miracles can be hard to quantify, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s National Outcome Measures show that treatment results in improvement in every life domain, including: abstinence from alcohol and other drugs, decreased symptoms of mental disorders and improved functioning in all major areas. The same study reports that those who have completed treatment also have decreased involvement with the justice system and are better able to find and keep safe and stable housing for their families.

That’s what miracles sound like when measured in the dry, public sector language of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. For a more personal take on the value of treatment, please consider the words of a grateful mother who recently sent a thank-you note to one of the family therapists at Cottonwood:

“We are still floating. None of us will ever be the same.
Our son is doing great – happy and clean out in
California. He told me the other day that he had gotten
a sponsor. The sound of his laughter has returned to us.
We have gotten a miracle.”

I wish you could have had one too, Casey.

Jeffrey C. Friedman, LISAC

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