Add to GoodReads

Blowing Smoke

Rethinking the War on Drugs without Prohibition and Rehab

Michael J. Reznicek

Alcohol, opiates, cocaine and marijuana, among other drugs, have been used and abused for millennia. Prior to the disease model approach to drug addiction, which posits that addiction is a psychological and biological problem and that sufferers are victims, societies had a workable solution: let people consume what they want, and let informal cultural controls reinforce responsible behavior. Legal sanctions were reserved for any use that affected the safety of others. Blowing Smoke proposes an approach to the war on drugs that returns us to the pre-disease-model era. Dr. Reznicek asserts that addiction is not a medical problem to be treated in rehab or by prohibiting substance use. Rather, he debunks the disease model, arguing that it has exacerbated the problem by telling drug abusers that they are not responsible for their behavior, that they are sick, that they are not to blame. He skillfully argues for a new approach to drug use and abuse that requires a shift in the way we fight the war on drugs.

Dr. Reznicek provides a new framework for understanding drug abuse: the habit model. Habits are practiced as long as they provide comfort, and are abandoned when they cause pain. The habit model is more consistent with current neuroscientific knowledge and it accounts for the widely observed phenomenon that most substance abusers don’t change until they “hit bottom,” the point where the consequences of drug use finally outweigh its benefits.

Using the habit model, Dr. Reznicek suggests the solution to the drug problem is to turn back the clock, and to take lessons from societies that use social controls and consequences to deal with addiction and drug abuse. He recommends the legalization of drugs for adults, the implementation of social practices to dissuade abusers, and the end to the use of rehab as a way of handling addiction.
Blowing Smoke shows how such an iconoclastic approach can work for us today.
« less more »
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 232Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-1-4422-1514-6 • Hardback • February 2012 • $42.00 • (£27.95)
978-1-4422-1515-3 • Paperback • August 2016 • $25.00 • (£15.95)
978-1-4422-1516-0 • eBook • February 2012 • $23.00 • (£15.95)
Michael J. Reznicek, M.D., is a clinical psychiatrist in Washington state with over 20 years of experience. He has practiced in the military, in hospital-based community settings, in prisons and in state hospitals. He has been a guest on numerous talk-radio shows at the local, national, and international levels to discuss drug abuse.

Michael Reznicek's website.
Murder, Thievery and Drunkenness
Demon Rum
Disease Crusaders
Racism, Progressivism and Drug Laws
The Power of Paradigms
The Brain on Drugs
Deconstructing Rehab
Rehab’s Effectiveness: Who’s Really in Denial?
The Habit Model
The Case for Drug Legalization
Controlling Teen Drug Use
Controlling Adult Drug Use
Challenges and Opportunities
Appendix A: Signs of Drug Use in Children
Appendix B: Medications Used to Treat Addictions
Appendix C: Diagnosing Addictions
About the Author
Drawing on his experience as a psychiatrist dealing with substance abusers, Michael Reznicek dares to question the medical profession's claim to special expertise in this area. He cogently explains how the disease model of addiction and the medicalization of drug use undermine freedom and responsibility, reinforcing the disastrous prohibition of politically incorrect intoxicants.
Jacob Sullum, Senior Editor, Reason

Clinical psychiatrist Reznicek is calling for a “tectonic shift” in the way the nation, from individuals to the government, deals with drug addiction. Noting the failure of the war on drugs and the apparent ineffectiveness of rehabilitation, Reznicek debunks the notion that addiction is a disease. Drawing on research, 20 years in psychiatry, and his own struggle with substance abuse, he asserts that the “disease model” is dysfunctional, excusing behavior and providing assistance and benefits to abusers, including health care, disability payments, and other subsidies. He sees a false dichotomy that portrays the disease model as compassionate and any rejection of that model as mean-spirited. He begins by exploring the historical perspective on addiction from the temperance movement to eugenics to the current disease model. He goes on to examine the science behind the disease model, arguing that rehab treatment is “akin to ideological indoctrination” into the model itself. Reznicek concludes by advocating for legalization of drugs, with harsh social consequence for addicts, and offers recommendations of how addicts can break their habits. A controversial but fascinating look at the causes and treatment of addiction.

Many critics of the war on drugs advocate a "public health" approach to substance abuse that emphasizes "treatment" for the "disease" of addiction. In Blowing Smoke, Michael Reznicek shows how such language reinforces the logic of drug prohibition by implying that people cannot help themselves. Drawing on his experience as a psychiatrist, Reznicek dares to question the medical profession's claim to special expertise in this area. He highlights the weak scientific basis for the government-endorsed understanding of drug addiction, cogently explained how the disease model undermines freedom and responsibility. Instead he recommends viewing addiction as a bad habit that can be curbed with right social and economic incentives, which for the most part means getting government out of the way so that it neither makes drug use more dangerous than it would otherwise be nor insulates addicts from the consequences of their choices.

Critiquing the current disease model for diagnosis and treatment of substance abuse, Reznicek (psychiatrist and longtime critic of this model) reviews the history, and function in various contexts, of use of alcohol and other drugs. He analyzes trends that led to the prohibition movement and conceptualization of drug abuse as a mental-health problem recognized by the medical and psychiatric fields (and legitimized by neuroimagery and classification of chronic alcohol/substance abusers as eligible for Social Security Disability benefits). Reznicek also discusses recent research and government approaches to control that have resulted in large-scale incarceration with little to show by way of rehabilitation. He argues for strong involvement of all family members--families can successfully curb or prevent a relative's substance abuse--and advocates clear consequences and rewards, including regular urinalysis for adolescents (urinalysis seen in this context as preventive, not punitive). Reznicek's call for family involvement echoes the work of respected family therapists, who have largely abandoned the rehabilitation model and the flawed insurance-reimbursement system. Many practitioners will find his critiques controversial, but Reznicek offers an important, cogent summary of the difficulties society faces in an era of medicalized, criminalized, yet pervasive substance abuse. His call for a paradigm change is a provocative challenge. Summing Up: Highly recommended.

• Explains why the current war on drugs is doomed to fail

• Iconoclastic and thought-provoking

• Multidisciplinary: combines historical, sociological, political and scientific perspectives

• Provides a radical yet workable solution for the drug war—one in which the entire society has ownership