Alcoholism is a serious matter. In his summation in federal court years ago, Judge Miles Lord called it the 3rd leading cause of death in the US. This grim statistic and the devastating effects alcohol has both physically and psychologically motivates many to seek help from the treatment industry. But does treatment really help, or can the consequences of going to treatment actually make things worse?


Ninety-Five percent of alcohol addiction treatment in the US is based on the 12 step psychological model. That suggests the majority of people in the treatment industry view alcoholism predominantly as a psychological disorder stemming from a weak will; a character flaw requiring a “searching moral inventory” to recover (according to Alcoholics Anonymous’ 5th step); or a learned behavior, requiring behavior modification to correct.

Back in 1956, the AMA concluded that alcoholism is not a psychological disorder at all, it is a degenerative, finally fatal disease. Since then the addiction treatment industry has danced around that discernment. Back in 1990 an editorial for the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper quoted Harold Swift, president of Hazelden, stating, “chemical dependency is an illness like diabetes, cancer, or any other chronic illness.” No one ever pressed Mr. Swift to explain, why if alcoholism is an illness like these other degenerative, even genetic diseases, why does treatment consist of putting people into therapy groups and talking to them? That’s what addiction treatment is –talk–, and today, 60 years later, that distorted psychological approach emphasized by the treatment industry endures.

In the 1970’s Dr. Mathews-Larson’s tragic experience with treatment drove her to find an answer to the question: What Is Alcoholism? Shortly after finishing a “state-of-the-art” inpatient program, her son committed suicide. It started Dr. Joan on a path to understand why, after taking steps to restore and preserve her son’s life, did he give up. Her quest to find answers brought many harsh facts about treatment into the light, and eventually led to the development of a new orthomolecular model that does what treatment should be doing, treating the physical anomalies of a disease with proper biochemical repair.

While going to addiction treatment doesn’t guarantee you’ll end up as a suicide statistic, Dr. Joan found many reasons to pass on the experience.

  1. A study done on suicide in alcoholism, concluded that suicide is so prevalent among treated alcoholics that one-in-four deaths of the treated alcoholics in the study were “probable/positive” suicides … usually occurring within the first year after treatment.(1) This was no small study either, it consisted of 1,300 treated alcoholics.
  2. In another study researchers found treated alcoholics have almost the same mortality rate as drinking alcoholics … about three times higher than the general population. Counseling does not halt degenerative diseases set in motion by alcohol/drug use.
  3. Without the buffer of alcohol or drugs to reduce anxiousness and disguise depression addicts feel the full brunt of brain and nervous system changes that drinking and drug use cause. Symptoms linger for years according to an impressive Johns Hopkins study on 312 alcoholics. Over a ten-year period researchers’ found the following ongoing symptoms.
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Psychosis
    • Hostility
    • Paranoia
    • Phobic Anxiety
    • Inadequate/Inferior feelings.

Researchers concluded that the typical recovering person experiences these symptoms for many years while abstinent.

Is it any wonder relapse occurs so often after treatment. The industry now calls relapse part of the recovery process!

These studies are just a sampling that show how abstinence compelled without biochemical repair offers little/no benefit and the may be harmful. But the most insidious side of treatment does not come from failing to provide biochemical repair, it comes from introducing alien chemicals into a brain that has already been distorted from alcohol and drugs. Today, in an ironic twist, chemical treatment centers have become drug-dispensing depots for Big Pharma. This has fueled a country of addicts to the point that the US is far and above the world’s greatest consumers of pharmaceutical drugs. Estimates believe the US (<4% of the world population) consumes half the world’s drugs.

Treatment centers never disclose the deception of using a psychiatric drug to treat the symptoms of alcoholism and drug addiction. In the short term (i.e. when a drug is first started), the experience is often pleasurable, like many illicit drugs. After a few months psychiatric drugs stop producing their effect, but the user can’t stop taking them because withdrawal produces intense symptoms. Think about it. An alcoholic goes to treatment to stop drinking, gets put on one or several psychiatric drugs, ends up relapsing, and then discovers they still have a drinking problem, but now they’ve become addicted to some alien psychiatric chemicals as well. I have witnessed this scenario enough to tell you many wish they had never gone to treatment to begin with.


  1. M. Berglund, “Suicide in  Alcoholism,” Archives Of General Psychiatry, 41 (1984): pp 888-891.
  2. S. Pell and C. Dalonzo, “A Five Year Mortality Study of Alcoholics,” Journal of Occupational Medicine, vol. 15, no. 2 (Feb 1973): pp 120-125.
  3. C. Desoto et al “Alcoholics in Various Stages of Symptomology in Abstinence.” Alcoholism, Clinical & Experimental Research, vol. 9, no. 6 (Dec 1985): pp 505-512.