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The truth set him free

May 15, 2011
by Nick Zubko, Associate Editor
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Ten years ago, Adi Jaffe lived a life where “different people knew different sides of me, and everything else was kept in the dark.” The description refers to the years he spent selling a variety of illegal drugs, including methamphetamine, which would become his own drug of choice and fueled a long struggle with addiction.

Today, Dr. Adi Jaffe, (PhD), as he's now known, “isn't hiding anything anymore.” After a year in prison and two attempts in treatment, he eventually came to the realization that “telling the truth releases you.” With everything out in the open, he got clean, went back to school, and was able to complete a doctorate in psychology from UCLA.

Now at 34, he's front and center in the field of addiction research, running a successful website called “All About Addiction” (www.allaboutaddiction.com), which is dedicated to educating members of the public, introducing them to new solutions, and helping fix what Jaffe calls the “huge disconnect” between research and treatment.

“In my opinion, we still don't know enough about addiction to treat it properly,” says Jaffe. “There's a complex set of issues involved, not a single solution. My goal is to help push the field forward to make treatment more accessible and ultimately more successful-and maybe pay back some of the debt that I owe.”

A series of bad choices

Of course, Jaffe is able to offer a personal touch in his work in addiction research. During his time as a drug dealer, his addiction helped pave the way for a series of bad choices that eventually caught up with him-and landed him in prison.

In 2001, a motorcycle accident led to an arrest for drug possession that involved half a pound of cocaine. Later, a SWAT team raided his home and found more evidence against him-cocaine, speed, and “literally thousands” of Ecstasy pills.

After posting bail, Jaffe says it took a year to settle the case, during which time his lawyer advised him to go straight to rehab. “But I still didn't think I needed to go,” he recalls. “It was a defense strategy more than anything.”

As a private admission Jaffe could come and go as he pleased, but that freedom afforded the opportunity to attend a New Year's Eve party where he started using again. A failed drug test got him kicked out of treatment and made him face the reality of his circumstances, possibly for the first time.

“I got a call from my dad and I told him what happened,” Jaffe says. “He was very unhappy and angry; he said he didn't know what to do anymore. I told him he couldn't do anything; ‘it's up to me,’ I said. That's when I realized I couldn't run away from this anymore-I just had to face it.”

He was admitted to another treatment facility and stayed clean for nine months, then added another year sober while serving his prison sentence. A work furlough program followed, and made Jaffe realize just how limited his career options had become. So with two years of sobriety, he decided his best option was to go back to school.

A new path

Jaffe says he “caught the bug” for addiction research, and has been on the hunt for new avenues for treatment ever since. During grad school he started writing articles after class, relating what he had learned to his experiences with addiction.

Those articles later became the foundation for All About Addiction, which he launched during his second year at UCLA. “We started off the first month with maybe 5 or 10 visitors; now we're up to 25,000 a month,” says Jaffe.

Jaffe's research has convinced him that what works for some might not be what works for others. “There are huge differences between people,” he says. “We need to get better at figuring out what treatment works better for whom, and when, rather than looking for a magic bullet.”

For example, some people walk into a 12-Step program and just “get it.” But if that doesn't happen, Jaffe says, it doesn't always mean they don't want it enough. Indeed, if there is anything to take away from his story, Jaffe says, it's to never give up-because you never know what might work.

“At the end, you have no idea where your path can lead you,” he says. “That's the amazing thing. You can have the most incredible life if you're just willing to get back up enough times.”

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