Lance Dodes ’66, DMS’68

A psychotherapist dares to question Alcoholics Anonymous.

Notable Achievements: A distinguished career at Harvard and mental health facilities in Massachusetts; has written The Heart of Addiction (Harper Collins, 2002), Breaking Addiction (Harper Collins Publishers India, 2011) and The Sober Truth (Beacon Press, 2014)

Career: Training and supervising analyst emeritus, Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute; previously assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, director of the substance abuse treatment unit of Harvard’s McLean Hospital, director of the alcoholism treatment unit at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, and director of the Boston Center for Problem Gambling

Education: A.B., biology; M.D., Harvard Medical School, 1970

Personal: Lives in southern California with wife Connie; father of two sons

“Addiction is a symptom, not a disease. It’s important to understand the emotional triggers that cause addiction. Feeling overwhelmingly helpless is the most common.”

“When people struggle with feelings of powerlessness, being told recovery lies in the hands of a higher power can be disheartening. The same is true of being told you’re back at zero after one drink. That can be depressing and enraging besides making no clinical sense.”

“Twelve-step programs are not the answer many people believe them to be. The success rate of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), for example, is 5 to 10 percent, which very few people realize. By AA’s own reporting there is a 75-percent dropout rate in the first year.”

“Group support is what makes AA successful at all. It calls itself a fellowship, which is accurate. Unfortunately, group support often erodes over time. It was never sensible to believe group support would resolve a problem as complex as addiction.”

“I am not against AA. I’m against prescribing it routinely.”

“AA is harmful when it leads people who fail to overcome addiction to feel they would have succeeded if they had just worked harder at the 12 steps. We would not be made to feel we failed if some other kind of treatment—a drug, for example—didn’t work for us.”

“I didn’t know that [AA cofounder] Dr. Bob Smith, class of 1902, was also an alum.”

“If you need to be hospitalized for addiction, I would advise skipping any facility that utilizes something like yacht or horse therapy. Don’t waste a lot of money on luxurious places instead of addressing your problems in a lasting way.”

“As with the treatment of addiction, I have issues with the direction in which psychiatry has gone. It used to be about human psychology. Now it’s about what drugs to prescribe.”

“A lot of people confuse psychological and physical addiction. The latter has nothing to do with the mind. It can be resolved by detoxification.”

“It’s common to confuse habit with addiction. Tens of millions of people drink every night who are not alcoholics.”

“The National Institute of Drug Abuse has for years been promulgating the idea that addiction is a brain disease, without any proof that neurobiological changes produce addiction in humans versus rats. There is an enormous body of evidence showing this idea to be false.”

“As a society, we had a better understanding of what makes us tick emotionally as people a few decades ago than we do now. Then there was more looking within. Now it’s all about creating labels for which we can prescribe drugs.”

“There is no magic cure for psychological addiction. The issues that cause it are not resolved overnight, but some work can be done without professional help, and—yes—I encourage people seeking a better understanding of addiction to read my books.”

Portfolio

Alumni Books
New titles from Dartmouth writers (September/October 2017)
Candid Camera
Documentary filmmaker Lance Kramer ’06 tackles complex social issues through his Washington, D.C.–based production company.
The Computerization of Music

September 1987: Professor Jon Appleton explains how electronics have changed the music industry.

William W. Helman IV ’80
On his time as a trustee

Recent Issues

Nov - Dec 2017

Nov - Dec 2017

Sep - Oct 2017

Sep - Oct 2017

Jul - Aug 2017

Jul - Aug 2017

May - Jun 2017

May - Jun 2017

Mar - Apr 2017

Mar - Apr 2017

Jan - Feb 2017

Jan - Feb 2017