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July 15, 2011
by root
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Betty Ford: 1918-2011

Word of Betty Ford's death on July 8 brought a flood of memories and tributes from many in the addiction field in the following days.

The State Associations of Addiction Services (SAAS)/NIATx conference opened the following Monday with words in Mrs. Ford honor. In an interview that week with Addiction Professional, Father Martin's Ashley co-founder Mae Abraham called Mrs. Ford and Father Joseph Martin “the pioneers,” adding that no one was more responsible than Mrs. Ford for allowing future generations of women to access and benefit from addiction treatment services.

The Addiction Professional website (www.addictionpro.com) features several blog postings and articles written in the days following Mrs. Ford's death. Included is a letter of condolence from NAADAC, The Association for Addiction Professionals, in which president Don Osborn wrote, “Betty Ford's personal and professional contributions to the substance use and addiction treatment community over the last 35 years are a lasting contribution to her pursuit of a better life for all Americans.”

The magazine cover depicted here is from December 2007, when addiction field historian William White marked the 25th anniversary of the Betty Ford Center's opening to describe what Mrs. Ford's frankness about addiction and recovery came to mean to the nation. White in that article recalled the Fords' 1978 public announcement that Mrs. Ford has sought treatment for addiction, and wrote, “That moment stands as the height of destigmatization of alcohol and other drug problems in America.”

White added in the article, “She put a face on alcohol and drug dependency that shattered the public stereotype of the alcoholic and in that moment brought us all a step closer to telling the truth about how these problems had touched our own lives.”

The drug-free model retains support

Just a note of appreciation to Andrew Bennett (“A Voice From the Wilderness,” March/April 2011 issue) for saying out loud and publicly what the addiction professional community needs to hear.

Having been in the field for almost 30 years myself, I am still in touch with former clients with 25 or more years of complete abstinence from all mood-altering drugs and alcohol who were given a month's residential treatment with only detox medications taken at most for five days. These are the same sober/clean people who told me about their prior dependency on drugs such as methadone and who urged-in some cases, begged-me to represent them at a state level so that more methadone clinics would not be springing up.

I see too many young people today who seem never to get truly clean and sober, who keep relapsing and hurting themselves and their loved ones because access to Suboxone and other medications is so easy to come by.

Joan DiMeglio

Court Referral Program

Keene, N.H.

I am a licensed clinical social worker and licensed clinical alcohol and drug counselor practicing in a private nonprofit community mental health center. Andrew Bennett's article “A Voice From the Wilderness” hit on a number of great points.

Bennett's mention of the differences between functional and organic dysphoria in recovering persons is a point well taken. (Full disclosure: I am not totally convinced of the disease model of addiction and believe that writers such as Stanton Peele, PhD, Sally Satel, MD, and Herbert Fingarette make some really good points in their criticism of this model.) I also feel that medical professionals' stating that non-medical staff “don't understand” things can at times be used to consolidate power through mystification of certain types of basic knowledge that are more accessible than we might think.

At the risk of profound oversimplification of a complex problem, I believe that what might be contributing to the increased medicalization of the addiction field is a combination of turf issues and the medical and pharmaceutical industry's realization of profits to be made. Fees charged for office-based Suboxone treatment are a case in point. Thanks again for a cogent, extremely thought-provoking piece.

Peter McCaffrey

East Hanover, N.J.

Addiction Professional 2011 July-August;9(4):14