The recent issue of Scientific American Mind has an article by prominent psychologists Scott O. Lilienfeld and Kelly Lambert on the history of recovered memories used in psychotherapy. As Lillenfeld and Lambert allude to, the recovered memories movement was largely responsible for the genesis and explosive growth of the controversial diagnosis of multiple personality disorder during the 1980s. It is no coincidence that the specious multiple personality disorder and recovered memory movement both occurred during the daycare sexual abuse scandals of the 1980s which led to numerous people being falsely accused of worst possible crimes. Most reasonable people look back at these times and wonder how could such junk science so perniciously influence our legal system. Yet recovered memories and multiple personality disorder was heralded at the time by the various professional associations and academics as “science” and those who argued otherwise were labeled “deniers.” Professors readily embraced media appearances suggesting that this new science was uncovering an ugly empirical truth about our society. Hindsight gives us the ability to laugh (and perhaps shed some tears) at this psuedoscience.
Yet our hindsight is often narrow. These days many folks are sounding the clarion call that addictions — ranging from the hardcore ones to the newly discovered video game addiction — are, in fact, diseases. The science is irrefutable they say. But just as with multiple personality disorder and recovered memories, the devil is in the details. Few of these supporters of the disease model of addictions openly admit that by transforming addictions from a moral failing or mental disorder into a disease means opening the funnel of federal and precious healthcare dollars into the addiction behemoth. Instead, fancy brain images of addicted brains are eagerly shown as proof that addicted brains are diseased brains. But, as history shows, money and politics often drives science more than anything else.