Shifting the Addiction Paradigm


Shifting the Addiction Paradigm

An annual conference presented by

The Center for Optimal Living, Ellenhorn, and The New School

2019 date TBA


A Paradigm Shift

For some in the United States, the change in our view of substance use is a long time coming. It follows decades of conversations, insights, theories and science on the weakness of using a purely disease model, and it rests within a larger shift within the behavioral sciences, returning us to a more humanistic, interconnected and contextual approach.  For them, the current medical orientation often leads to poor outcomes in treatment, and a way of treating individuals that’s both coercive and primed to take economic advantage of the most vulnerable.  For others, however, there is no debate.  They see as unquestionable the fact that addiction is a disease. For them, doubting this fact is a form of blasphemy – dangerous and heretical.

But today, cracks are forming in the older model in the U.S. (a silo in a world that has largely abandoned a purely disease orientation). And that’s a good thing.

To reject one paradigm without simultaneously substituting another is to reject science itself.
— Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

"Kaninchen und Ente" ("Rabbit and Duck") from the 23 October 1892 issue of Fliegende Blätter

There’s now a chance for greater creativity, choice in treatment and freedom in decisions about what to do in regards to substances in one’s life.  It can potentially mean a decrease in stigma, and a much more nuanced view of the use of drugs and alcohol.  The change allows for such words as “harm reduction,” “moderation,” and “social contingencies” to be used openly and freely, and it opens the door for insight regarding connections between oppression and social inequality and the use of substances.  Fracturing a cookie-cutter approach to addictive habits, it allows treatment—if a person wants it—to be truly individualized.  We are heading toward a paradigm shift.

Our annual conferences aim to hasten that shift by bringing together thought leaders, researchers and practitioners to present on new, innovative and liberating ways of approaching substance use and other habits, that are free from the yoke of the orthodoxy of disease.