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.

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

Jimmy K’s Greatest Idea – By William L White.

Drug-related moral panics rest so deep and so enduring within American history that they could be thought of as part of our national character. The latest focus of concern is the opioid epidemic as indicated by the more than 100% increase in opioid prescriptions, 2.5 million U.S. citizens who have a substance use disorder involving prescription or illicit opioids, 1.3 million opioid-related hospital admissions in the U.S. each year, and more than 33,000 opioid-related deaths per year. Yet, this opioid epidemic is far more than it appears to be. The focus of this brief essay is on our professional and public propensity to focus on one drug (or one drug category) at a time in isolation from broader and more enduring patterns of psychoactive drug consumption that connect and influence particular drug surges. The one-at-a-time drug focus, whether on alcohol, marijuana, LSD, cocaine, prescription opioids, or tobacco, has engendered numerous unintended consequences, including inconsistent… Continue reading

The Power of Purpose in Recovery – William L. White

  To journey without being changed is to be a nomad. To change without journeying is to be a chameleon. To journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim. –Mark Nepo You should never take more than you give…In the circle of life.–Elton John / Tim Rice Circle of Life One of the existential turning points within the recovery experience is marked by the diminishment of backward sense making (What happened to me?) and the increased urgency regarding one’s post-sobriety future (Okay, what do I do now?). All manner of emotions feed this transition: release, relief, gratitude, unworthiness (survival guilt), remorse (guilt over past transgressions), a gnawing sense of emptiness, and, not uncommonly, a passion to help others similarly afflicted. Many forces coalesce to push people out of addiction, but finding a higher purpose in one’s life is a potentially powerful pull force within the process of long-term… Continue reading

Speaking Truth in Silence – By William L White

  Addiction is often accompanied by mutations in character (e.g., lying, deceit, manipulation, aggression) that in turn spark breaches of trust within one’s family, personal, and professional relationships. It is thus not surprising that addiction constitutes one of the few health conditions in which reconstruction of character is posited as an essential dimension of the recovery process. Addiction-spawned changes within the brain contribute to these mutations via the prioritization of sustained drug use above all other human needs and values. Such aberrations also constitute defensive gambits to avoid drug-related consequences and the emotional toll of guilt, shame, self-hatred, and fear of insanity. Whatever their source, affected parents, siblings, children, intimate partners, extended family members, friends, employers, business associates, creditors, and professionals seeking to offer help all bear the brunt of the resulting breaches of trust. So for one on the brink of entrance into recovery, key questions become: “How can trust,… Continue reading

MECHANISMS OF CHANGE IN ADDICTION RECOVERY – By William L. White

High degrees of variability in the pathways and styles of addiction recovery obscure shared mechanisms of change across such healing processes. The alcohol and drug problems arena is filled with professional claims and counterclaims, excessive marketing hype, and riveting personal testimonies of how such problems can be best resolved. The central stakeholders in these debates commonly assert that their particular ideas and methods constitute THE TRUTH, and wrap these claims in the mantle of science or personal/clinical experience. The resulting noise can leave listeners understandably bewildered about the nature of such problems and their ultimate solution. People recover with and without the ever-expanding menu of professional treatment; with and without medication support; with and without involvement in the growing networks of religious, spiritual, and secular recovery mutual aid groups; and with and without involvement in new recovery support institutions (from recovery homes and collegiate recovery communities to recovery cafes and… Continue reading