William White
William L. White is an Emeritus Senior Research Consultant at Chestnut Health Systems / Lighthouse Institute and past-chair of the board of Recovery Communities United. Bill has a Master’s degree in Addiction Studies and has worked full time in the addictions field since 1969 as a streetworker, counselor, clinical director, researcher and well-traveled trainer and consultant. He has authored or co-authored more than 400 articles, monographs, research reports and book chapters and 20 books. His book, Slaying the Dragon – The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America, received the McGovern Family Foundation Award for the best book on addiction recovery.

Recovery Rising Excerpt: Treatment Works? Taking on A Sacred Slogan – William L. White.

Sloganeering has a long history in the alcohol and other drug (AOD) problems arena as a means of promoting or stigmatizing drug use, advocating particular cultural policies toward drug use, and conveying particular definitions of the nature of AOD problems. The ideological and financial backlash against addiction treatment through the late 1980s and 1990s left treatment advocates on the defensive. It was in this climate that the slogan, Treatment Works, became the central organizing slogan of the addiction treatment industry. There was much to commend the slogan. It was short and catchy, celebrated those whose lives had been transformed by professional treatment, and honored treatment practitioners and their organizations. Something bothered me about the slogan, and it took some time to sort out the source of that discomfort. In 2004 and early 2005, I posted and published a paper challenging the use of this slogan. I argued that the slogan 1) erroneously conveyed the… Continue reading

Attentional Bias in Addiction Recovery – William L White

People addicted to alcohol and other drugs see the world differently. They SEE the world differently as a result of neurocognitive changes in perception that accelerate in tandem with increased tissue tolerance, increased intensity of cellular hunger (craving), and the resulting obsession with maintaining the drug relationship at all costs. As drug seeking, drug procurement, and drug use rise to the top of one’s motivational priorities, one develops attentional bias toward words, symbols, and images linked to these substances. Perceptual preferences for drug-linked stimuli are an essential element within the neurobiology of addiction. In recovery, this perceptual preference is reframed, giving perceptual priority to words, symbols, and images that reinforce the recovery process. The journey from addiction to recovery is marked by extreme ambivalence, particularly during the early stages of recovery, and exposure to these contrasting sets of cues can tip the scales toward either addiction recurrence or the transition… Continue reading

Recovery as an Act of Resistance – By William L. White

When a slave was drunk, the slave holder had no fear that he would plan an insurrection; no fear that he would escape to the north. It was the sober, thinking slave who was dangerous, and needed the vigilance of his master to keep him a slave. –Frederick Douglass, 1855.  Addiction is influenced by personal vulnerability, but global drug trends and their consequences to individuals and families are also influenced by larger technological, political, economic, and cultural processes. Awareness of such contextual influences and their relationship to personal recovery has been most fully articulated within American communities of color and other historically oppressed and marginalized communities. The earliest recovery support movements in North America rose within Indian tribes whose prophetic leaders (e.g., Handsome Lake, Tenskwatawa, Kennekuk) expressed a profound understanding of the role alcohol was playing as a weapon of exploitation, colonization, and extermination. These leaders challenged the “Firewater Myths” that portrayed racial… Continue reading

RECOVERY PORN: A Story of Healers & Hustlers – By William L White

The field of addiction treatment is facing a growing cultural backlash that threatens its future as a viable social institution. Cultural ownership of an intractable problem vacillates over time. Vague but passionate promises of a new approach always garner more hope than the known limitations of current efforts. And any industry that has attracted substantial financial capital will draw a subset of individuals and organizations who will sacrifice public health and safety for personal and corporate profit. When such limitations and abuses are exposed, there exists the risk that a social institution’s probationary status will be revoked and their functions transferred to other institutions within their operating environment. Aware of such risks, most fields develop standards of organizational and professional practice that maximize effectiveness and elevate ethical decision-making. Such protective devises help assure that exposés of industry shortcomings are viewed as the misconduct of particular organizations and individuals and not… Continue reading

Addiction Neurobiology & Personal Destiny – By William L White

In 2005, Nature Neurosciencepublished a special issue on the neuroscience of addiction that summarized the advancements in unraveling the biological mechanisms that contribute to the etiology and progression of addiction to a wide spectrum of psychoactive drugs.  The technical papers included in the 2005 special issue stood as a progress report on the biological model of addiction that has been aggressively promulgated by National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Nora Volkow, MD, and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Director George Koob, PhD.   The state of addiction science was updated in 2011 in Nature, and Nature has just published a special supplement of articles on addiction that provides a further update. In reviewing this series of collected papers, it is difficult not to be swept up in the advancements in our understanding of the neurobiology of addiction.  These papers mark an evolution from a deeper understanding of the underlying mechanisms of addiction, to new… Continue reading