Ruth Clifford Engs, Editor/Author. CONTROVERSIES IN THE ADDICTION FIELD, Kendal-Hunt: Dubuque, Iowa, 1990
Sample from Controversies in the Addiction Field
As a researcher and educator who has investigated drinking patterns for almost twenty years, I have become deeply concerned over increased polarization between different factions in the field during the past decade in the United States and to a minor extent in Canada. I am concerned that this hostility has not only led to disharmony and discord but has, even more importantly, profoundly prevented workable solutions towards alcohol and other drug abuse problems in North America. As part of this accelerating conflict, conferences and publications have been forthcoming with only ONE side of a particular issue being presented, usually as the sole way to solve a problem. Individuals with dissenting viewpoints have not been encouraged or even invited to partake of these forums. Consequently the previous publications and conferences have all been one sided.
Therefore, as a scholar I felt that the airing of conflicting ideas, in one book, could be a step towards mutual understanding and acceptance and a vehicle to help bridge the divide between differing points of views and philosophies. Thus the purpose of this publication was to get under one cover differing opinions concerning various controversial issues and to discuss these differences in a scholarly manner based upon the research.
The mark of a scholar and of a scholarly publication is to tolerant of differing viewpoints and to assure that all sides have an open forum for presentation. As neutral editor for this book, I have strived for completely fair and scholarly representation of all sides of each issue presented. In this light I would like to mention that in two of the sections I have either previously co-authored, or have been closely involved professionally, with the authors writing on all sides of the issue. Also I should mention that as editor, in the process of putting this book together, I have discovered that this work itself is considered controversial by some.
This first volume addresses only a few of the controversial issues found in the addiction field. There are other issues of interest and an additional publication is being planned where additional controversies such as: should drugs be legalized, should there be mandatory treatment for pregnant alcohol/drug using women, etc. can be discussed.
In soliciting authors for the volume, noted researchers and scholars, known for a particular viewpoint, were contacted. Because of time commitments some were not able to contribute but readily offered names of colleagues. A few for political reasons and personal philosophies, which will further discussed below, declined the invitation. In a few sections, where researchers could not be found, nationally known advocates for a particular issue were asked to participate. Also, some emerging scholars and academicians were asked to contribute so that there would be a mixture of seasoned authors and new emerging talent in the field.
Authors were not directed as to the style or manner of writing their manuscript. They were only asked to limit their manuscripts to approximately ten pages plus the bibliography and tables. Therefore, there are a variety of styles ranging from very light to very serious presentations. In some cases authors on each side of the issue used the same research data and related literature. Depending upon their interpretations they often came to different conclusions.
Any manuscript changes, other than minor spelling and punctuation by the copy-editor, were made with the approval of the authors(s). Though the authors did not see each other's works, in the case of the school based education issue, the authors on their own volition decided to share papers. Also, it needs to be mentioned that neither the editor nor the writers have been renumerated in any way for this publication as it is considered service to the field.
In two sections, namely the "nature of alcoholism and drug addictions" and the "effectiveness of school based education", because of the multifaceted nature of the area, more than two authors were obtained to gather a spectrum of viewpoints. In other subject areas, ideally it would have been more interesting to have multi-authors but this was not feasible because of page constraints or non-availability of potential writers at this time.
Is such a publication concerning controversies in the addictions field even needed? After talking with a variety of potential authors throughout North America, I found that most encouraged the concept and welcomed an opportunity to discuss their point of view and research in an open forum. However, some were hostile towards its whole idea.
Sadly I talked with some potential authors who did not agree with or believe in the concept of open forum and debate. Some had punitive attitudes towards individuals or groups who had opinions or values different from their own. Some were even hostile to the concept of the book. I am distressed by the attitudes of these individuals, all of whom are very well known in their area of specialties. I regret that they declined to participate in this publication and would like to list some of their reasons as they appear to be symptomatic of the deep fissions characteristic of the alcohol/drug field today, particularly in the United States. The reasons as follows are: 1) There is only one correct point of view or only one right way to solve the problem and the individual was appalled that anyone could have a different viewpoint; 2) ACA as an organization receives funding from individuals associated with the beverage industry; or 3) ACA receives funding from the treatment industry and they would not want to be associated with anything even remotely connected with the alcohol beverage or treatment industry; 4) When given the name of certain authors who had agreed to write chapters,, some of the potential writers felt that these authors should not be given a forum because of their "dangerous", "non-academic", or "out of date" viewpoints and did not wish to be presented in the same book with them.
I was amazed by these attitudes. Certainly in academia all attitudes and ideas are welcome to be discussed in open forum. Individuals with different research results, values, agendas, or monetary affiliations are encouraged to discuss their point of view. I was amazed that some of these individuals apparently did not believe in the concept of open forum where a variety of individuals with various opinions could freely entertain their professional opinion concerning a controversial issue. I am deeply disturbed by these values as, in my opinion, they contribute to increased division and hostility rather than efforts to look for compromise and workable solutions to solve the problems in our field.
I would like briefly to inform the reader as to the process of how this publication came to be. After I had finished editing the book Women: Alcohol and Other Drugs for the Alcohol drug Problems Association, I discussed with Kendall-Hunt, the publisher, the possibility of undertaking a book focused upon various controversies in the addiction field. This was because, as I have previously mentioned, I was concerned with increased polarization of factions within the field. I felt that a book discussing current controversial issues could serves as an open forum for differing viewpoints under one cover thereby helping to bridge the gap between the differences. Since this philosophy was compatible with the American Council on Alcoholism (ACA), I approached them with the idea for the book and they agreed to become the host sponsoring organization, as is required by the publisher for this type of service oriented text.
In summary, as a society we cannot afford to think uni-dimensionally or dichotomize the field because all the issues discussed in this book are extremely complex. In all probability there is no simplistic solution or one answer to any of the problems or issues discussed. As it may have become apparent to the reader there are various shades of gray for each of the items discussed. No issue is really black or white. Perhaps after enough time and effort we may find that there are numerous etiologies for alcohol and other addictions and a variety of potentially successful prevention, education, treatment and public policy solutions. However, we must begin to start listening to each other. We must start to work together by openly discussing our differences if we are to successfully solve the alcohol and other drug abuse problems in our culture today.