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To the Editor:

Re “Forced Addiction Treatment Fails,” by Maia Szalavitz (Opinion guest essay, Sunday Review, May 1):

It’s true that forcing people into addiction treatment is futile. Those who voluntarily seek out treatment have a better chance of recovery. But people who end up being forced into treatment have always had the opportunity for voluntary treatment, and always declined. They are a separate group, and their success rate in treatment is poor. Why is this news?

Ms. Szalavitz argues that some forced treatment programs use humiliation as a technique and that this is the reason they fail. But everyone — those who sought out treatment voluntarily and those who were court ordered or required to be in treatment by their employers — is treated in the same programs.

In my long experience of work in this field I’ve never seen humiliation or abuse. That was the old Synanon way, but I’ve found only compassion and respect.

Alice Feller
Berkeley, Calif.
The writer is a psychiatrist with a specialty in chemical dependency treatment.

To the Editor:

I’m a retired addiction therapist. I have been beating the drum on this for years. A person cannot be forced to do the work necessary to successfully recover. Using force almost always ends in disaster, sometimes prolonging the person’s recovery for years.

We have excellent evidence-based treatment methods that rely entirely on giving advice, confronting or even strongly hinting at what the person “should” do, but not forcing. Unfortunately, the industry is ruled by the abstinence-only thinkers, who automatically blame the patients if they don’t comply instantly.

The entire treatment industry needs to be taken out of the hands of the criminal justice system, and there needs to be full legalization of all drugs for consenting adults. Then, those of us who are trained in the proper practice of motivational enhancement (also called motivational interviewing) can create the safe space that suffering addicts need to address their next steps.

You simply cannot yank someone “over the line.” They must be the ones to express a desire to change, and to determine the rate or method of achieving that. Maia Szalavitz got it exactly right!

Patrick Dieter
Madison, Wis.

To the Editor:

Maia Szalavitz claims that forced treatment for addiction doesn’t work. In our family’s tragic experience, neither does the friendly persuasion that she advocates.

We tried several times to get the courts to mandate treatment for our drug-abusing and mentally ill son. When psychiatrists were finally given enough time to diagnosis him, bureaucracy prevented mandating treatment. Instead, he swung month to month between being a model patient and behaving dangerously out of control. We believe that if the courts hadn’t failed him, he’d be alive today.

Drug addiction and mental illness are complex problems. We’re far from one magic pill that cures this spectrum of disorders. One thing’s for sure: Mandatory long-term inpatient care for the mentally ill is essential.

Jim McManus
Phoenix

To the Editor:

Maia Szalavitz wrote an entire opinion piece about recovery from addiction without mentioning the proven success of 12-step programs. Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous as well as other 12-step groups for various compulsive behaviors have provided the tools for an addict to recover, one day at a time, from their addictions.

Recovery does not end when a person completes a behavior modification program at a therapeutic community of the sort that Ms. Szalavitz describes in her piece. It is only then that it begins.

Detox may be necessary before entering 12-step programs, and some of that health care is not available to all because of lack of insurance coverage.

But a good sponsor will explain and guide. With A.A., N.A. and other groups, recovery from addiction is really possible with proper, effective support.

(Rev.) James F. Joyce
Bronx

To the Editor:

In “A Post-Roe Agenda for the G.O.P.” (Opinion guest essay, May 9), Patrick T. Brown notes that pro-life activists constantly face the “shopworn cliché about being pro-life only until the baby is born,” and then lays out ideas such as paid family leave, postpartum care and expanding programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, promoting them as an “authentically pro-life, pro-family approach.”

Democrats have been advocating for ideas like these for years, and Republicans have voted against them at every opportunity, instead choosing to cut taxes, especially for the wealthy, and drastically reduce social programs, while also demonizing “welfare queens” and exhorting people to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

The so-called pro-life Republicans have had 50 years since Roe to prove that they are more than just pro-birth. They have utterly failed.

Michelle Fisher
Bradenton, Fla.

To the Editor:

In the 1970s I was privileged to argue three cases before the Supreme Court. In those days, while some justices were typecast as liberal or conservative, it was a given that minds could be changed and no result was foreordained. No more.

The political machinations of Mitch McConnell have ensured that the court is now dominated by an ideological conservative majority whose minds are closed. Millions view the court as another political entity. It now seems inevitable that Roe v. Wade will be overturned. No doubt many girls and women will have their lives ruined, and some may go to prison for having an abortion.

But make no mistake: Many, if not most, women who wish to have an abortion will find a way. Pro-choice states are already gearing up to help women who choose to terminate a pregnancy. Like ill-fated Prohibition in the 1920s, draconian laws will be evaded (mostly by women of means) and respect for the rule of law will be eroded.

So, what is the end game of overruling Roe v. Wade? The Supreme Court may have the power to eviscerate a well-established constitutional right to privacy, but it will have done so by sacrificing its legitimacy in the eyes of a majority in this country. It is sad to contemplate what the Supreme Court once was, and what it has become.

Richard Kohn
Muir Beach, Calif.

To the Editor:

Re “The War Is Getting More Dangerous for America, and Biden Knows It” (column, May 7):

Once again, Thomas L. Friedman shows himself to be a voice of reason among the din of the drums of war. I wholeheartedly agree with him that we need to be more clearsighted and careful as this crisis moves forward.

As he rightly points out, we must be constantly aware of the incalculably high costs (for the entire world) that could come from this war. While it is encouraging to see how people in the West and across the world have come together in supporting Ukraine’s cause in this horrific invasion, too many voices now seem to rally around militaristic hubris.

The United States and the West should be asking at every single step: “What are our ultimate goals? What are the risks?” Failing to do so could carry costs too high for us to fathom.

Beau Zuercher
Shefford, Quebec

To the Editor:

Re “We’re in a Loneliness Crisis. Another Reason to Get Off Our Phones,” by Tish Harrison Warren (Opinion, May 2):

My wife died last year, and I’ve been on a path of grief where loneliness is an ever-present fact of life. Recently, I took a three-day road trip to visit a friend I hadn’t seen in more than half a century.

While I hadn’t planned it, I turned off my phone — no internet, no email, no texts — for the entire trip. We didn’t even turn on the tube. This digital brain cleansing was a welcome tonic, highly recommended. The irony is that we likely would have never reconnected without social media.

Doug Garr
New York



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