• A Guide to Finding Outside Assistance for Addictive Problems

    Posted on December 8, 2022
    By Tom Horvath, PhD, ABPP   Am I an “alcoholic” or “addict?” Do I “need help?” If so, what kind? If you are asking one or more of these questions, this blog is for you!   A somewhat out-of-date but nevertheless helpful federal publication considers these questions. Although this NIAAA (National Institute Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) document is focused on alcohol problems, many of its ideas can also be applied to other addictive problems. In this blog I will attempt to improve upon and expand their ideas. In my opinion NIAAA 1) focuses too much on treatment and not enough on the individual choosing or considering change, 2) does not alert the reader about the serious problems that can arise in treatment, and 3) is not up-to-date on the finding that AA specifica...
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  • Addiction in Family and Social Systems

    Posted on November 4, 2022
    by Thaddeus Camlin, Psy.D. An underemphasized area in the disease model of addiction is the role of environmental factors.  Genetics and sensationalized hijackings of the midbrain are certainly factors in the development of problematic addictive behaviors, but they are overemphasized at the expense of family and social factors.  The disease model paints addiction as an individual problem and gives family dynamics and societal norms a get out of jail free card, so no wonder it maintains its stronghold as the dominant theory - everybody other than the identified addict gets to point their finger from a holier than thou position of moral superiority and save themselves from the discomfort of identifying and addressing their own issues. Addiction and Family Systems Family roles (e.g. t...
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  • Rat Park Revisited

    Posted on April 29, 2022
    By Tom Horvath, PhD Not exactly: I’m reporting about a presentation by Professor Bruce Alexander, the creator of “rat park,” given on 4/19/22, for the Addiction Theory Network, based in the UK. The webinar was: Retiring the Brain Disease Model of Addiction. And Then What? Rat Park Recap Rat Park, if you are not familiar with it, was his groundbreaking research showing that when rats are given a stimulating environment they will NOT die from self-administering various substances (e.g., cocaine, heroin). However, they will die from self-administration in a barren cage where the only choices are food/water and substances. Further, if you take rats stuck in those barren cages and then place them in rat park, they will again engage in normal rat activities and no longer have substance p...
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  • Sage Money Podcast - Interview with Dr. Horvath

    Posted on February 4, 2022
    Sage Money Conversations with Barbara Norman, CFP® - Interview with Dr. Tom Horvath Episode 010: Dealing With Family Addiction Addiction can be financially devastating, it can destroy a life, and it can tear a family apart. It’s common for individuals with addictive problems to attend several expensive treatment programs, with little lasting progress. In this revealing episode, Dr. Tom Horvath reveals some of the problems with traditional approaches to treatment, and he offers alternative ways to treat addictive problems, talk with our loved ones, and create a happier home life. Dr. Horvath, author of Sex, Drugs, Gambling & Chocolate: A Workbook for Overcoming Addictions, has specialized in addictive problems since 1985.  He is a California licensed (PSY7732) and board-...
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  • A Courageous Statement from Dr. Volkow

    Posted on January 7, 2022
    by Tom Horvath, PhD There is no more important person to the addiction treatment and recovery field than Nora D. Volkow, MD. Dr. Volkow is the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In the US government’s fiscal year 2021 NIDA spent about $1.4 billion, primarily on research. By comparison, the budget for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is only about $500 million. A substantial portion (if not the majority) of the world’s addiction research is funded under Volkow. The Statement from Dr. Volkow: Consequently, when Volkow speaks, people listen. Maybe more so than ever now: “Making Addiction Treatment More Realistic And Pragmatic: The Perfect Should Not Be The Enemy Of The Good” https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/forefront.20211221.6918...
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  • The Self-Empowering Approach

    Posted on October 22, 2021
    by Tom Horvath, PhD Practical Recovery and SMART Recovery both use the self-empowering approach for resolving addictive problems. This approach contrasts with the powerlessness-based approach of AA and other 12-step groups, at least on the surface. Both approaches begin with the person considering change, and then deciding to change (at least to some degree). Both approaches can be effective, but one may work better for specific individuals. The powerlessness-based approach is described in AA’s 12 steps. In the first step you admit you are “powerless over alcohol.” In the third step there is “a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” This approach can be described as serenity (as used in the Serenity Prayer, and also as “letting go” o...
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  • Stanton Peele Book Review by Dr. Tom Horvath

    Posted on October 14, 2021
    A Scientific Life on the Edge: My Lonely Quest to Change How We See Addiction, by Stanton Peele, reviewed by Tom Horvath, PhD Peele’s latest book (#14) is a personal autobiography, an intellectual autobiography, and a detailed comparison of his work with that of many other authors and scientists, including Maia Szalavitz, Carl Hart, Marc Lewis, and Johann Hari. For those unfamiliar with Peele’s work, this book would be an excellent introduction. If you already appreciate him, the historical and comprehensive nature of this book (379 pages, plus 52 pages of online references) will likely be appealing. The references online are helpful, and save the reader from flipping pages back and forth. Peele revolutionized our understanding of addiction. Love and Addiction, published in 1975 (...
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  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): A Brief Overview

    Posted on May 21, 2021
    by Tom Horvath, PhD, ABPP Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is an approach to psychotherapy designed for individuals who are highly emotionally sensitive, who struggle with depression and anxiety, and who may at times become suicidal. DBT tools, which focus on distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and mindfulness, can be helpful to anyone. You can remember these 4 categories as DIEM, as in carpe diem (seize the day). DBT is part of the larger family of CBT (cognitive behavior therapy). Marsha Linehan, a psychology professor emeritus at the University of Washington, Seattle, developed DBT as a result of coping with her own emotional problems. Linehan, born in 1943, revealed in her late 60’s the personal connection to her professional work. Distres...
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  • Drugs Don't Cause Addiction

    Posted on March 19, 2021
    by Thaddeus Camlin, PsyD Saying drugs cause addiction is like saying clouds cause tornadoes.  Tornadoes are caused by a complex combination of factors including warm, moist air, changes in wind direction and speed, and an unstable atmosphere decreasing in temperature rapidly with height.  Similarly, addiction is caused by a complex combination of factors, not drugs themselves.  Let us not forget, drugs are not even a necessary component of addiction, as addictive behaviors manifest in the absence of drugs with process addictions like gambling, video games, sex, food, social media, work, etc.   Just like tornadoes require an unstable atmosphere, addictions invariably grow from unstable, often traumatic environmental conditions.  Clouds don’t cause tornadoes, drugs don’t cause addictio...
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  • Addiction Treatment is Sick, Not the People Treated

    Posted on February 12, 2021
    by Thaddeus Camlin, PsyD Labeling people who’ve been traumatized as sick, is sick. There’s nothing pathological about being severely affected by the worst of life’s horrors. There is something deeply pathological when natural reactions to unnatural situations are described as sickness and disease. There’s nothing sick or diseased about someone experiencing post-traumatic stress after catastrophic events then easing the aftershocks with substances that provide fast-acting relief. Substance use is an adaptive effort to cope with life problems, and until we figure out ways to effectively and reliably help people who suffer from post-traumatic stress people will continue to take matters into their own hands. The problem is not the people in addiction treatment, the problem is the woefull...
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