Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Is Addiction Incurable?

A piece in the N.Y. Times , June 9, 2013 discusses Dr. Drew Pinsky, a television personality and doctor who treats addicts and helps in rehab. (See http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/09/fashion/dr-drew-pinsky-physician-and-media-star.html) Here is what he says: addiction is not a curable condition. It is one of those endearing syllogisms that say, since I cannot cure it, it must be incurable. Therefore I don’t have to try. I just control it as best I can. And of course he has had some suicides among his rehab group. He says he wishes he could blame himself but alas it is not true. He is not to blame. He did his best. Sadly, that best is not good enough and derives from the notion that it is all in our heads, and if we can change our attitudes we can conquer it. Not cure it, mind you, just conquer it.

Of course he had suicides. His therapy was incomplete and ignored the crucial few months of life where deep depression gets its start. And therefore, yes, addiction can be cured…if we take away its generating sources. If we go deep into the brain and the unconscious. That is what cure means, tying symptoms to origins. Otherwise, we can never speak of cure. So long as we ignore the deep-lying causes there is no cure, and that is the inadvertent crime of Dr. Pinsky. No origins,6 never a cure. What are we curing? The causes. No more, no less. Otherwise, no matter what the therapeutic approach they are never curing.

It is strange to see in print that something cannot be cured; that means that they have the last word in theory and technique and it cannot be improved upon. He does not say, maybe there is someone around who knows how to cure but I don’t. For that he needs to survey the literature. We don’t keep our therapy hidden. It is published in books and scientific papers. He has to take the time and interest to search for answers. He does not say, maybe one day we can cure it. No. It cannot be cured.

The problem is that he and others who mean well have a slight arrogance about them to indicate that they know it cannot be cured. What a disservice to addicts in the country who need help and need to know there is a cure. Can he put himself and his therapy in question? Can he have a bit of self-doubt? Can he imagine anyone in the world doing something better than him? Evidently not. Is that arrogance? I think so. It is an arrogance that leaves those who suffer no way out. This is what rehab centers do, as well. No science, just a potpourri of unproved approaches with a hope for the best. But isn’t that arrogance on our part to think we know better? I don’t think so since I did put myself and my therapy in question years ago and decided to change. Also we do get down to origins and we do cure and we never make statements about not curing anyone.

Clearly, we don’t cure everyone but I believe that our therapy provides the platform for cure, something we have been honing for many decades with thousands of patients. Dr. Pinsky says he hopes he could take responsibility for the suicide of his rehab patients. I can help you doctor. You are responsible. Your lack of searching, even by inadvertence makes you able to claim responsibility. And you should because that is the first step toward cure-----toward finding a cure for yourself and your patients.


  1. Have you had suicides? Do you think one day there will be primal oriented inpatient hospital sort of care available for people in lots of pain regardless of the diagnosis/label?

  2. Penicillin... does it exist or not? One question to answer in the name of science!

    "He is not to blame. He did his best." No he did not do his best! I am confident that he knows who you are but refuses to listen so he is to blame and that in a lawsuit!

    If he do not want to argue his position against what primal therapy presents and produces he is to blame for the consequences of the suffering of his patients!

    What is the question... I do not understand the problem... he's doing something he absolutely sholud not do... he knows that primal therapy exists... you are there... but still he continues to practice quackery!

    The reason for a legal process is to put primal therapy on the map so that no one... absolutely no one can freka and say we didn't know! They all should know!

    Do you know how many we would do 'happy'? Wake up... Primal therapy exists!


  3. It is so sad that this man can think of himself as so caring when not caring if his patients fail to recover.

  4. Media Star. There is the rub. The adulation of the crowd. Who is addicted here?

  5. Totally off topic other than one can be addicted to a career.
    Making people laugh helps the person feel loved. Entertain a parent and one has to keep entertaining to keep the addiction of love going.

  6. Hi Art ,
    As You know M.r. Freud rather died of cancer than to "treat" his addiction...
    And nevre ever came it to his mind (and for others..the " scientic" community...than
    tha cocain was an addictive poison.

    So we are at the need to define what addiction is and what (in the broadest sense ) is
    content of this deplorable? state .
    In the case of obviously dangerous substances it seems to be clear ... but if one drinks
    "socially" ,smokes (like the native indians did -on rare occasions ) or eats voraciously
    sugar containning foods , beverages , etc..Hecatoms of people suffer !! under this" harmless" substance!

    And the so called workaholics : my niece and her husband are broker in Berlin , and are able
    to drive 2 cars (worth 180 000 Euros!) and Think ...they "have" the burn-outsyndrome resp they could be called work?alcoholics .
    Needd they to be "cured" and to lose all their wealth thereby .

    Qintessence(mine) only the really SUFFERING need HELP and not the spoilt pseudo addicts and the like !!

    Yours emanuel

  7. An email comment: "Art thanks for writing this.... I was a drug addict cured by you.... Thanks.

    FYI, the hospital in which Mr. Pinskey practices Las Encinas Hospital, has been under investigation for several patients that accidentally while in Detox.


  8. Art--

    I would be very interested to read any studies that you have done on how the therapy has worked with addicts. I am one myself, currently in AA (which does seem to prevent me from 1. killing myself, 2. using drugs). I am of the thought that AA is more of a bandage that has to be redressed every so often and doesn't touch much on the root of the disorder. I'm not sure how it works, but most of the program is styled like cognitive behavioral therapy--where changing one's behavior is the goal. Confessional, making amends, that sort of thing. It would probably fail miserably if one wasn't surrounded by people with the same disorder all the time.

    I'm familiar with Dr. Pinsky's work and the patients that he has lost and I'm unsure how to feel about all of it. I've been to rehab twice (same place), which was mostly focused on the 12 Steps of AA or NA. I suppose I'm desensitized to all of it and fundamentally unfeeling to begin with. It would be wonderful to read some information specifically geared toward addictions (real application of primal therapy to addicted patients, what can be done to prevent relapse, etc.).

    1. Anonymous: You can read my recent post on Philip Seymour Hoffman: http://cigognenews.blogspot.com/2014/02/philip-seymour-hoffman-is-dead.html


Review of "Beyond Belief"

This thought-provoking and important book shows how people are drawn toward dangerous beliefs.
“Belief can manifest itself in world-changing ways—and did, in some of history’s ugliest moments, from the rise of Adolf Hitler to the Jonestown mass suicide in 1979. Arthur Janov, a renowned psychologist who penned The Primal Scream, fearlessly tackles the subject of why and how strong believers willingly embrace even the most deranged leaders.
Beyond Belief begins with a lucid explanation of belief systems that, writes Janov, “are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively.” While belief systems are not presented as inherently bad, the author concentrates not just on why people adopt belief systems, but why “alienated individuals” in particular seek out “belief systems on the fringes.” The result is a book that is both illuminating and sobering. It explores, for example, how a strongly-held belief can lead radical Islamist jihadists to murder others in suicide acts. Janov writes, “I believe if people had more love in this life, they would not be so anxious to end it in favor of some imaginary existence.”
One of the most compelling aspects of Beyond Belief is the author’s liberal use of case studies, most of which are related in the first person by individuals whose lives were dramatically affected by their involvement in cults. These stories offer an exceptional perspective on the manner in which belief systems can take hold and shape one’s experiences. Joan’s tale, for instance, both engaging and disturbing, describes what it was like to join the Hare Krishnas. Even though she left the sect, observing that participants “are stunted in spiritual awareness,” Joan considers returning someday because “there’s a certain protection there.”
Janov’s great insight into cultish leaders is particularly interesting; he believes such people have had childhoods in which they were “rejected and unloved,” because “only unloved people want to become the wise man or woman (although it is usually male) imparting words of wisdom to others.” This is just one reason why Beyond Belief is such a thought-provoking, important book.”
Barry Silverstein, Freelance Writer

Quotes for "Life Before Birth"

“Life Before Birth is a thrilling journey of discovery, a real joy to read. Janov writes like no one else on the human mind—engaging, brilliant, passionate, and honest.
He is the best writer today on what makes us human—he shows us how the mind works, how it goes wrong, and how to put it right . . . He presents a brand-new approach to dealing with depression, emotional pain, anxiety, and addiction.”
Paul Thompson, PhD, Professor of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine

Art Janov, one of the pioneers of fetal and early infant experiences and future mental health issues, offers a robust vision of how the earliest traumas of life can percolate through the brains, minds and lives of individuals. He focuses on both the shifting tides of brain emotional systems and the life-long consequences that can result, as well as the novel interventions, and clinical understanding, that need to be implemented in order to bring about the brain-mind changes that can restore affective equanimity. The transitions from feelings of persistent affective turmoil to psychological wholeness, requires both an understanding of the brain changes and a therapist that can work with the affective mind at primary-process levels. Life Before Birth, is a manifesto that provides a robust argument for increasing attention to the neuro-mental lives of fetuses and infants, and the widespread ramifications on mental health if we do not. Without an accurate developmental history of troubled minds, coordinated with a recognition of the primal emotional powers of the lowest ancestral regions of the human brain, therapists will be lost in their attempt to restore psychological balance.
Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.
Bailey Endowed Chair of Animal Well Being Science
Washington State University

Dr. Janov’s essential insight—that our earliest experiences strongly influence later well being—is no longer in doubt. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, immunology, and epigenetics, we can now see some of the mechanisms of action at the heart of these developmental processes. His long-held belief that the brain, human development, and psychological well being need to studied in the context of evolution—from the brainstem up—now lies at the heart of the integration of neuroscience and psychotherapy.
Grounded in these two principles, Dr. Janov continues to explore the lifelong impact of prenatal, birth, and early experiences on our brains and minds. Simultaneously “old school” and revolutionary, he synthesizes traditional psychodynamic theories with cutting-edge science while consistently highlighting the limitations of a strict, “top-down” talking cure. Whether or not you agree with his philosophical assumptions, therapeutic practices, or theoretical conclusions, I promise you an interesting and thought-provoking journey.
Lou Cozolino, PsyD, Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University

In Life Before Birth Dr. Arthur Janov illuminates the sources of much that happens during life after birth. Lucidly, the pioneer of primal therapy provides the scientific rationale for treatments that take us through our original, non-verbal memories—to essential depths of experience that the superficial cognitive-behavioral modalities currently in fashion cannot possibly touch, let alone transform.
Gabor Maté MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction

An expansive analysis! This book attempts to explain the impact of critical developmental windows in the past, implores us to improve the lives of pregnant women in the present, and has implications for understanding our children, ourselves, and our collective future. I’m not sure whether primal therapy works or not, but it certainly deserves systematic testing in well-designed, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled clinical trials.
K.J.S. Anand, MBBS, D. Phil, FAACP, FCCM, FRCPCH, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Senior Scholar, Center for Excellence in Faith and Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System

A baby's brain grows more while in the womb than at any time in a child's life. Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script That Rules Our Lives is a valuable guide to creating healthier babies and offers insight into healing our early primal wounds. Dr. Janov integrates the most recent scientific research about prenatal development with the psychobiological reality that these early experiences do cast a long shadow over our entire lifespan. With a wealth of experience and a history of successful psychotherapeutic treatment, Dr. Janov is well positioned to speak with clarity and precision on a topic that remains critically important.
Paula Thomson, PsyD, Associate Professor, California State University, Northridge & Professor Emeritus, York University

"I am enthralled.
Dr. Janov has crafted a compelling and prophetic opus that could rightly dictate
PhD thesis topics for decades to come. Devoid of any "New Age" pseudoscience,
this work never strays from scientific orthodoxy and yet is perfectly accessible and
downright fascinating to any lay person interested in the mysteries of the human psyche."
Dr. Bernard Park, MD, MPH

His new book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” shows that primal therapy, the lower-brain therapeutic method popularized in the 1970’s international bestseller “Primal Scream” and his early work with John Lennon, may help alleviate depression and anxiety disorders, normalize blood pressure and serotonin levels, and improve the functioning of the immune system.
One of the book’s most intriguing theories is that fetal imprinting, an evolutionary strategy to prepare children to cope with life, establishes a permanent set-point in a child's physiology. Baby's born to mothers highly anxious during pregnancy, whether from war, natural disasters, failed marriages, or other stressful life conditions, may thus be prone to mental illness and brain dysfunction later in life. Early traumatic events such as low oxygen at birth, painkillers and antidepressants administered to the mother during pregnancy, poor maternal nutrition, and a lack of parental affection in the first years of life may compound the effect.
In making the case for a brand-new, unified field theory of psychotherapy, Dr. Janov weaves together the evolutionary theories of Jean Baptiste Larmarck, the fetal development studies of Vivette Glover and K.J.S. Anand, and fascinating new research by the psychiatrist Elissa Epel suggesting that telomeres—a region of repetitive DNA critical in predicting life expectancy—may be significantly altered during pregnancy.
After explaining how hormonal and neurologic processes in the womb provide a blueprint for later mental illness and disease, Dr. Janov charts a revolutionary new course for psychotherapy. He provides a sharp critique of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and other popular “talk therapy” models for treating addiction and mental illness, which he argues do not reach the limbic system and brainstem, where the effects of early trauma are registered in the nervous system.
“Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” is scheduled to be published by NTI Upstream in October 2011, and has tremendous implications for the future of modern psychology, pediatrics, pregnancy, and women’s health.