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Keeping Lines of Communication Open

October 5, 2011
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Our July/August 2011 issue had several distinguishing features. It was the largest by page count in Addiction Professional's nine-year history, allowing us to publish comprehensive preview coverage of September's National Conference on Addiction Disorders (NCAD). It also unleashed strong reader responses ranging from the thoughtful to the accusatory, which gives me an important opportunity to talk about our role as an editorial team.

Lee Tannenbaum, MD's article entitled “ASAM's split personality” focused on his concerns over directions he observed in his membership organization, but its impact was felt well beyond the addiction medicine community. Several readers from addiction treatment centers saw his words as an attack on the validity of 12-Step treatment approaches that have saved countless lives.

Some went further, saying the article signaled that this magazine holds a bias against 12-Step treatment protocols and favors medication-focused strategies. When they saw that the same issue of the magazine included an ad for a pharmaceutical product wrapped around the cover, they claimed to have found further evidence of their point.

I take these concerns seriously. At the same time, I urge readers to place them in the context of what they have seen in a magazine that from day one has established a forum open in all ways to all relevant viewpoints, treatment approaches, and advertisers. Our cover reiterates our mission of offering “tools for clinical excellence,” and in this relatively young sector of healthcare, clinical and administrative professionals are constantly re-examining the contents of the toolbox.

The reason we launched this journalistic enterprise was to share with clinical professionals a diversity of information that could help them do their jobs better. We are guided by a widely held notion among national field leaders that there are multiple paths to recovery. Rather than pit one treatment modality against another, these research and government experts believe the evidence points not to the type of treatment as having the greatest effect on outcome, but rather to the time an addict is able to spend in treatment and the rapport he/she builds with a significant person (such as a counselor, a sponsor, or a physician).

This issue's Letters section opens with two direct replies to Dr. Tannenbaum's article, including an official response from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). The National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) plans to join this conversation with an article in the November/December issue. A question on 12-Step and medication treatments posted to the Addiction Professionals group on LinkedIn in late August generated more than 150 comments in less than two weeks.

We welcome the dialogue, because we believe that everyone involved in treating addiction must continue to talk to each other. We also would like to cast a vote for disagreeing without being disagreeable. At a time when addiction treatment's place in the emerging healthcare world remains poorly defined, this field can ill afford to be portrayed as territory that other disciplines can divide and conquer.

Addiction Professional remains true to its original mission; we are covering the trends that clinical professionals are inquiring about. We came to be because counselors needed a trusted, comprehensive source that placed their needs first and addressed their daily challenges in helping to rebuild their clients' lives. I and my editorial colleagues manage this task according to the maxims of journalistic integrity that were drilled into me more than 25 years ago in daily newspaper newsrooms, delivered by wizened editors in raspy monotones: “Be fair.” “Get it right.” And, a favorite of one former editor: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

Before any of us conclude that we have stopped learning about what explains the scourge of addiction, the promise of treatment, and the magic of recovery, let's always take the time to check it out.

Gary A. Enos, Editor Addiction Professional 2011 September-October;9(5):06