Barry Lessin, Addiction Psychologist, Changes His “Disease Theory” Approach After 40 Years

Many clinicians who work in the addiction field must learn to offer far more than the dangerous cult religion known as the 12 steps.  If a client finds the steps helpful of course, a good clinician will not discourage their choice.  However, the opposite is not practiced with the majority of addiction specialists.  Many who see clients with addiction disorders send clients to the 12 step cult.  In fact, that is virtually all they have to offer and insist, just as this cult instructs, that without AA, the client will end up in three and ONLY three places: Jail, an Institution or Dead.  No matter how AA disciples balk at this, their literature clearly states in many manipulative ways and places, that the 12 steps are the one and only way, you have a “disease” that can never be cured but only have a “daily reprieve spiritual awakening” and you are “in denial” if you chose any alternative form of help.

However, statistics clearly show this to be not only false but severely damaging to members who trade one dependence for another — the program.

Dr. Lessin has been working with this population for almost 40 years and has now had what he calls an “Ah ha” moment, when he realized how the US “drug war” has failed people miserably and a wider public health perspective is necessary. Why?  The politics of the “drug war” the 12 step cult and it’s “all-or-nothing” dogma has damaged more than helped.  He studied the statistics to discover that about half of the people who are diagnosed, or could be diagnosed, in reality “mature out” of this behavior.  He learned that not only is abstinence not the only choice but it is often times not the best choice, especially for teens.

As you will see in the article I provide here (with permission from Dr. Lessin), he found himself astounded to learn that by age 30, most people have experienced a maturation that allows them to outgrow drug problems and the risky behavior that leads them down this path.  He found himself unable to continue providing the “disease model” as it is an outright clinician error.  He also found the psychiatric disorder known as addiction to have the highest odds of recovery, than any other disorder.  Oh really?!

Is this what we have been led to believe culturally and medically?  Absolutely not. Hell no. Not with the dangerous cult religion and the billion dollar “rehab” industry as merely a front for this cult.  No way.

Dr. Lessin now clearly sees the limitations of the “disease model” and has incorporated evidence-based help in his practice.  He sees this disorder as maladaptive learning, which therefore, can be unlearned and replaced with healthier choices.  If you can learn a coping mechanism, you can learn a different one when the one you are practicing is not working.  Not only is abstinence not the only choice, it is not the choice of most people who can and do successfully moderate their behavior..  Dr. Lessin is now providing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing for his clients.  He no longer sees everyone who presents with a problem as potentially “diseased” and their only choice is complete cessation of substance use. He is no longer labeling the family as “diseased” and is helping the entire family learn to adapt and grow together, rather than shipping someone to a 12 step rehab that only allows the client to chase his own tail for the rest of his life.

He admits now that the “disease theory” is a label that is particularly damaging to teens and that is indisputable.

I can expand that and say unequivocally that labeling anyone, no matter their age, as an “alcoholic” or “addict” causes extreme cognitive dissonance.  This negative labeling has proven to be the cause of depression, anxiety, suicide, bingeing on drugs, vulnerability to crimes of violence and financial scams, and keeps people tied to a cult religion rather than provide them tools to make better choices and move on with their lives.  However, moving on with their lives is precisely what most people do, in spite of this cult dogma.  Sadly and chronically, for those unfortunate enough to become indoctrinated by this cult of subterfuge, the road out is a long, fear-filled, bumpy journey.  This cult religion causes people to fear their own ability to think and the deprogramming that must happen before steppers can truly move on, is extensive.

Dr. Lessin is now empowering clients and their families for the best chance at a full recovery, or in clinical terms a Full Sustained Remission.  In any 12 step group, a full sustained remission is completely impossible.  Any clinician who provides nothing but the 12 step cult religion is in serious danger of a malpractice claim and a license revocation.

Consider yourselfs warned clinicians.  I thank Dr. Lessin for his bravery and honesty.  He does not mention the 12 step cult in the article recently published in rehabs dot com and that is a smart move.  If he had, as I do here, he most certainly would have been attacked and threatened by steppers.  They are taught their program is perfect and if you fail to achieve this perfect “spiritual” sobriety, it is your fault because you are not doing it right, enough or are not being honest. Therefore, anyone who exposes the truth is a sworn enemy and must be destroyed.

No.  I completely reject that notion.  What Dr. Lessin has done with this article is highly brave and I admire him very much.  Now you can too.


— Laura Tompkins

20 comments on “Barry Lessin, Addiction Psychologist, Changes His “Disease Theory” Approach After 40 Years

  1. And he calls out the government propaganda on the ‘disease theory’ at least in the comments. As does Ethan Nadelman in his recent interview (‘adolescent brain theory’). The gov’t is pushing hard on that and good to see professionals pushing back.

    How do I get it to stop snowing up in here?

    • Close the window. Yes, it is indeed good to see professionals pushing back. There’s only so long a true clinician can deny the truth. He and I had some spirited debates in the past but now we have a mutual respect. He struggles for years before exposing his changes. It’s difficult to fight this cult but fuck them. It’s way past time. Fuck AA.

  2. I like your blog, thanks. A “perfect program” wouldn’t blame the victim for failure, would they? A perfect program wouldn’t have failures.

    AA doesn’t need to be perfect. It does really seem to work for some. The problem is that it is practically the only solution ever offered. If you press, someone will mention Rational Recovery or similar, but good luck finding a group.

    Sadly, my “treatment” loved to say that they were “evidenced-based.” But, then they required me to attend AA. Where’s the evidence? Of course, I was allowed to attend RR instead, but when there are no meetings, it isn’t a helpful suggestion.

    • The idea of a ‘program’ at all is an AA invention to coerce more people into the cult. No one needs a ‘group’ in order to understand their underlying issues and learn how to make healthier choices. It’s all a big lie from the most brilliant cult of all time.

  3. “Is this what we have been led to believe culturally and medically?” Yeah. Its a religon, that has infected the mass conscienceness.

    “I am coming to view the exposure of the true face of AA as being something akin to the drawing of a image of Mohammad.” – ODDNES

    Great article

  4. I tried out both AA and OA. AA because although I am not an alcoholic, I liked hearing the good humor at meetings. OA because I suffered from both anorexia and binge eating. AA I cannot comment on, but as for OA, yes, the atmosphere was cult-like. Either that or no one really had any clue what to do. The cult was controlling and manipulative. You were a terrible sinner if you ever disobeyed your sponsor. She controlled you because you had to call her daily and “commit” your food. Finally, I notice at meetings and with my sponsor, absolute extremes were encouraged, such as eating in the bathroom and other types of irrational food behaviors, just to ensure one followed the “meal plan.” That’s when I got out. It wasn’t the answer at all.

    • Thank you for commenting Julie. The 12 steps are not the answer indeed! In fact, the dogma has been proven to promote binging. Alcohol, sex, food, whatever. The all-or-nothing dogma harms far more than it helps. This is highly true of OA. What’s with the weighing every piece of food?!

      For those with disordered eating, the goal is normalizing ones relationship with food. All OA does is provide more obsession than before — when clients are feeling overly obsessed to begin with!

      Yes on the sponsor relationship. They are control freaks who have no business training your dog, let alone telling you what to do with your every waking moment. For fucks sake.

      Congratulations on getting out!

      • Yes, the slogans were certainly harmful for those of us who were “normal” weight or underweight. I went to meetings where they would say, “Don’t eat no matter what.” I questioned this, which of course caused them to take one look at me, and then say, “Well, we didn’t really mean that.”

        Ask most brainwashed folks in USA and they will tell you that “health” equals working out and losing weight. You figure if a person weighs 150, and they lose two pounds a week, oh so healthy, they will reach zero after 75 weeks, a year and a half, then drop below zero. Why not? Just don’t eat no matter what, and you might get even more than invisible. You’ll be plenty below, meaning about six feet under, if they even bother digging that deep anymore.

        • The slogans are harmful to everyone. You’re hilarious!

          Don’t breathe no matter what. The ultimate chant. Fucking steppers.

          • I am not at all offended if another person chooses to attend meetings or speak of the various programs.I am happy whenever I see another person happy. I don’t believe there is any ONE way that works for everyone. That means I am indeed offended if another person imposes THEIR protocol onto MY health. I think each person needs to decide for themselves, that is, take control and make independent and autonomous decisions, and quit proselytizing. This goes for just about all “therapists” who seem to thrive on manipulating others.

            • No doubt. Good therapists are very helpful but those who push this cult religion on people are just wrong, not to mention highly unethical.

              As are the old-timer gurus who get off on bossing unsuspecting, vulnerable, trusting people around.

              People are full of power and the ability to make the best choices for themselves. Alcohol, or any other drug, is not ‘cunning, baffling and powerful’ it’s a fucking beverage that one has the right to injest or not. No offense should be taken for individual choices — Only respect and honor for the innate power of each person.

              Respect and dignity and empowerment are completely unavailable and frowned upon in the 12 step cult. As you so eloquently state, each person needs to decide for themselves what helps them and no one has the right to proselytize their way to someone else.

              • What you say for sure hits home. I left the mental health system a couple of years ago and can’t tolerate anything that resembles “therapy.” I had one especially abusive and controlling therapist so I actually get a trauma reaction from therapy or pseudotherapy. A few people who used to be therapists but have left the System, or say they have, are setting up businesses outside the system, calling it “spiritual healing” or “intuitive readings,” but having now spoken to a few, I think it amounts to their not wanting to stop controlling others.

  5. And of course there’s the recent book by Marc Lewis: “The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction is Not a Disease.” Slowly things are changing.

    Unfortunately, there’s a lot of dollars to be lost in the commodification of addictions, so we should expect the change to proceed at a very slow pace. So many are willing to prostitute their integrity, and the lost souls of those who have been lied to continue to pile up.

    • Change is indeed slow since this cult religion is so brilliant in its dogma and brainwashing. The best we can do is keep on keeping on.

  6. He hasn’t changed. Phony harm reductionist.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: