Addicted or Irresponsible?
Student – Management Major
R. Bryan Kennedy, Ed.D
Professor of Management
Susan Davis Herring, Ph.D
Athens State University
Presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Alabama Academy of Sciences, March 12, 2015, University of West Alabama, Livingston, AL
Alcohol and drug addiction have become rampant in today’s society and there are debates among professionals as to whether addiction is a disease or the result of personal failings. The authors of this manuscript hold that available medical and research data prove that addiction is a disease. Addiction is a brain disease that affects the structure of the brain; and in many cases co-morbidity hinders the ability to effectively treat addiction. Many useful treatments have been developed and are currently employed. Not only are multiple treatments oftentimes necessary, but also multiple attempts at treatment before permanent sobriety is reached. Unemployed adults have a higher occurrence of addiction than employed adults; however, the workplace is also rife with addiction and the problems that it causes. No one treatment stands out as the most effective; attitude and motivation of the addicted individual seems to be the most important factor.
The focus of this manuscript is drug and alcohol addiction instead of the broader field of addiction, which includes numerous other types of addictions such as sexual, Internet, eating, etc. It is acknowledged up front that a relatively broad segment of the general population does not believe that it is worthwhile to address this issue. These people tend to feel that this type of problem is caused by a lack of will power, self-indulgence, laziness, or other personal failings. The authors of this manuscript hold a different view concerning addiction, and maintain that available medical and research data provide conclusive evidence that a great many individuals are victims of addictions, sometimes multiple.
The following definition of addiction is from the book, The War of the Gods in Addiction, by D. E. Schoen:
Addiction is a pathological relationship. It uses persons, objects or events for purposes that they cannot possibly fulfill. The addiction becomes the all-absorbing focus, the provider of ultimate meaning, and the sole reason for being of the addict. Everything…revolves increasingly around the object of desire. In that way the addiction becomes a god to which the addict is completely subjected (2009, p. 4).
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, addiction is considered a brain disease because drug abuse changes both the way the brain works and its structure (2014). Marco Leyton (2013) stated that addictions share characteristics with other diseases such as type II diabetes, hypertension and many cancers in that they are all influenced by genetic, biological and environmental factors. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) website reports that addiction is a chronic disease and that there can be periods of relapse but that “the return to drug use is not inevitable” (2015, para. 18). Howard Markel in his book, An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halstead, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine, maintains that “addiction is one of the most recalcitrant diseases known to humankind” (2011, p. 70).
One of the many difficulties of treating addiction is comorbidity. In as many as 50% of adult addiction cases, depression, mood disorders, attention deficit disorder, or some other mental health problem also exists (Markel, 2011). Dr. Edward Khantzian, who specializes in addiction psychiatry, states that there are several “effective…approaches for understanding and treating addiction, including 12-step programs, relapse prevention, cognitive-behavioral approaches, harm reduction therapy, motivational interviewing, medications, and dialectical behavioral therapy.” He also maintains that many times affected individuals are only offered one approach, and if it fails, nothing else is offered, which can sometimes prove fatal to the addicted individual (2014, para 7).
In 1961, five months before his death, the renowned Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung received a letter from Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Wilson spoke of a former patient of Jung, Roland H., who had made an impact on Wilson with his stories of Jung’s views and treatment of alcoholism. Jung answered the letter immediately and spoke of his memories of Roland H. He said, “his craving for alcohol was the equivalent, on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language: the union with God” (Schoen, 2009, p. 20). He referenced the following scripture: “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God” (Psalm 42:1, King James Version).
Genesis 2:7 says “God formed man… and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7, King James Version). Job 32:8 says “But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives understanding” (Job 32:8, New Century Version). Humans try to fill that space within themselves, the emptiness that longs to be filled with God’s spirit, with substitutes, and many times those substitutions become addictions. One of the reasons AA and other twelve-step programs are so successful is because of the emphasis on spirituality and seeking a “Power greater than ourselves,” and “God as you understand Him” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 2015, para. 2-3).
Addiction and Employment
A study by Holtyn, DeFulio, and Silverman at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 2014 noted that there is a strong association between drug addiction and unemployment. Employment has been recognized as an important element in treating addiction. Those who are unemployed have higher rates of substance abuse than those who are employed on a regular basis. In this study, academic skills of drug-addicted and chronically-unemployed adults were tested; specifically, math, spelling, and reading. Of the 559 participants in the study, an average of 11 years of education had been completed. However, the academic skill level was at or below seventh grade level for 81% in math, 61% in spelling, and 43% in reading. The conclusion was that along with all other treatments for addiction, basic adult education should be included, as it could assist with being able to obtain employment (Holtyn, DeFulio, & Silverman 2014).
On the other hand, there is also a huge problem with drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace. In 2013, 15.4 million or 68.9% of the 22.4 million adults who were addicted to drugs were employed either full or part time, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or SAMHSA (2014). The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. reports that drug abuse costs employers $81 billion annually. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management reports that “employees who use illegal drugs have three to four times more accidents while at work” (n.d., para. 1). The problems with addiction have become so great that 68% of employers offered Employee Assistance Programs in 2008; 97% of companies with more than 5000 employees have EAPs (EAP Consultants, 2015).
I could tell you many stories of tragedy, heartbreak, and frustration from dealing with addictions in loved ones. I expect many of you could match me story for story. Addiction is a rampant disease that crosses all barriers of age, sex, race and national origin, and class. As stated in the beginning, addiction is not just a result of bad behavior, bad judgment, or having a lack of ambition or will power. “Addiction is a brain disease which affects multiple circuits, including those involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory, and inhibitory control over behavior” (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2009, para. 1). Addicted person require treatment, and sometimes not a single type of treatment but rather a variety of approaches, in order to overcome the addiction. In many instances, the treatment must be long-term or repeated multiple times before it is effective (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2009, para. 2).
Which type of treatment has the most success rate? That seems to be a matter of opinion, as there are many professionals who advocate for a variety of treatment options. The effectiveness of treatment often depends more on the attitude and motivation of the addict than on the specific approach. Addiction treatment has been studied and debated for decades with no reduction in prevalence. Like many other diseases, the more awareness that can be created, and the more research that can be conducted, the more likely we will see improvements in alleviating this dreadful disease.
Alcoholics Anonymous. (2015). The twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Retrieved from http://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/smf-121_en.pdf
American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2015). Definition of addiction. Retrieved from http://www.asam.org/for-the-public/definition-of-addiction
EAP Consultants. (2015). EAP Benefits. Retrieved from http://www.eapconsultants.com/eap-benefits
Holtyn, A.F., DeFulio, A., & Silverman, K. (2015). Academic skills of chronically unemployed drug-addicted adults. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation 42(1): 67–74. doi:10.3233/JVR-140724
Khantzian, E.J. (2014). Tragic trends in the treatment of addictive illness. Psychiatric Times, 31(5), 11. Retrieved from http://www.psychiatrictimes.com
Lehton, M. (2013). Are addictions diseases or choices? Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience 2013: 38(4). Retrieved from http://jpn.ca
Markel, H. (2011). An anatomy of addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halstead, and the miracle drug cocaine. New York, NY: Pantheon Books.
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (n.d.). Drugs and the workplace. Retrieved from http://ncadd.org/index.php/learn-about-drugs/workplace/242-drugs-and-the-workplace
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2009). DrugFacts: Treatment approaches for drug addiction. Retrieved from http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-drug-addiction
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Drugs, brains and behavior: The science of addiction. Retrieved from http://www.drugabuse.gov/sites/default/files/soa_2014.pdf
Office of Personnel Management (n.d.). Work-life: Employee assistance programs. Retrieved from http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/worklife/employee-assistance-programs/#url=Substance-Abuse
Schoen, D.E. (2009). The war of the gods in addiction: C. G. Jung, Alcoholics Anonymous, and archetypal evil. New Orleans, LA: Spring Journal Books.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2014). Results from the 2013 national survey on drug use and health: Summary of national findings. Retrieved from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUHresultsPDFWHTML2013/Web/NSDUHresults2013.pdf
Torres, I. (2009). Webcast: Recovery in the workplace: Treatment benefits both employees and employers. Retrieved from http://www.recoverymonth.gov/Resources-Catalog/2009/Webcast/Recovery-in-the-Workplace-Treatment-Benefits-Both-Employees-and-Employers.aspx
What is addiction? (2015). Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com
Gloria Diane Hammond graduated from Athens State University in May, 2015 with a major in Management and a minor in Human Resource Management. She was an active member of the student chapter of Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a member of Phi Theta Kappa, and she served as secretary of Phi Beta Lambda (PBL) in 2014-2015. Diane has been married to her husband, Mike, for a year and a half and they live in Athens. She enjoys cooking family dinners, watching her grandchildren grow, gardening, and line dancing.
Dr. Bryan Kennedy is a Professor of Human Resource Management at Athens State University. He holds a BS in Economics and Social Science from Middle Tennessee State University, MA Degree in Educational Administration with a minor in History from MTSU, MA in Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma, and Doctor of Education in Human Development and Counseling from Vanderbilt University. He has held various other jobs, including high school teacher and coach; supervisor of a division in the area of Human Resource Management with the Department of Army in Huntsville, AL; and arbitrator in the areas of labor/management. He serves on numerous state and national panels to include Tennessee Valley Authority – International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; the U. S. Postal Service – American Postal Workers Union; and Social Security Administration – American Federation of Government Employees. He also serves as a mediator and consultant for various organizations. In his spare time, Dr. Kennedy enjoys officiating at basketball games and spending time with his grandchildren.