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*Unbroken Brain* Explains Why ‘Tough’ Treatment Doesn’t Help Drug Addicts

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From, an interview with Maia Szalavitz, author of Unbroken Brain. Szalavitz was addicted to cocaine and heroin from the age of 17 until she was 23. 

Tough love, interventions and 12-step programs are some of the most common methods of treating drug addiction, but journalist Maia Szalavitz says they're often counterproductive.

"We have this idea that if we are just cruel enough and mean enough and tough enough to people with addiction, that they will suddenly wake up and stop, and that is not the case," she tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

Listen to the interview here…



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. What happens if your son is using at home and refuses to stop. He is not waking up for work.

    We have a 12 year old and it is greatly affecting him; he has developed verbal and facial tics from the stress.

    I have my own mental health issues that are keeping me co-dependant and ill. I read this book; I prayed it would work. But it isn’t. Every time I apply principles, he uses it as an opportunity to use/go out. We pull away attention /affection and he loves it because it gets us off his back.

    He is such a hard nut to crack. He refuses treatment. We have taken him to a stabilization unit, doctors, counsellors. He ends up blaming and gaslighting me and he does it in such a convincing way everyone falls for it. Nothing works.

    We had to throw him out 3 nights ago. It is freezing here but we just had to. We literally cannot take another second of it. Our 12 year old is starting to be traumatized by it. He won’t go to rehab and will definitely not do the 12 steps which is all that is offered up here.

    I understand that this may create more chaos but I literally will not be around for anyone soon if I cannot get some rest and a little bit of a break; he is literally breaking me in half. I love Maia’s book but we just cannot get to a place that is calm and non-volatile. I am so conflicted that I just cannot stop crying. Save the addict or save the 12 year old? Saving the addict isn’t working and it is killing the 12 year old.