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November 30, 2007

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Robert West

Advancing the effectiveness of treatment for addiction is a very worthwhile goal but we must also remember that implementing effective treatment programmes and disinvesting in ineffective ones, and ensuring that when treatment programmes are implemented this is done well rather than badly, will save at least as many lives and probably more. I am struck by the lack of connection between what happens in practice and what the research indicates is a good idea with regards to treatment - and to the extent to which people become emotionally attached to particular treatment approaches with inadequate evidence of effectiveness.

Jack Henningfield

As one of the editors of this book, I look forward to comments on what others think about it. Our goal was to attract short essays on challenging and controversial issues from leading thinkers in addiction related science, policy, treatment, and other areas. We achieved that and most of the essays are just a few pages long and sharply pointed. We expect and hope they will provoke further thinking and action to do something to help people who are addicted.

I have been involved in addiction research since the early 1970s, and witnessed dramatic advances in the scientific understanding and treatment options. Our application of this knowledge, as discussed by former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop in the opening essay, has lagged far behind, and we have a long way to go to achieve his goal of making it as easy to get treatment as it is to get addicted. We hope that the addiction related art in the book might also help people to better understand the human side of addiction and recovery and foster compassionate support.

By way of disclosure and experience, I have worked and/or have been supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, World Health Organization, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and private companies on addiction treatment issues. I also consult to GlaxoSmithKline on treatments for tobacco addiction and share patents on new potential treatments for tobacco addiction (none of which have been developed into marketed products).

While we are a long way from treating addiction as easily as we treat most bacterial infections, I can tell you that we do have treatments for several addictions that rival our ability to treat diabetes, asthma, depression, and other disorders. I look forward to the day that it will be as easy and respectable to get addiction treatment as it is for these other disorders.

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