Kevin Gilliland: An offer for Ben Carson

I want to make a deal with Dr. Ben Carson, the current GOP presidential frontrunner. I’ll not practice neurosurgery if he won’t speak again about addiction and recovery. Please.

Recently, Dr. Carson told a Sunday morning news show host:

“[U]sually, addictions occur in people who are vulnerable, who are lacking something in their lives. And so we have to really start asking ourselves, what have we taken out of our lives in America? What are some of those values and principles that allowed us to ascend the ladder of success so rapidly to the very pinnacle of the world and the highest pinnacle anyone else had ever reached?

“And why are we in the process of throwing away all of our values and principles for the sake of political correctness?”

Huh? So, the problem of drug abuse and addiction is caused by a lack of “values and principles” and can be traced back to an over-emphasis on “political correctness.”



Honestly, I’m not really sure what point Ben Carson is trying to make. His logic begs these follow-up questions, “How does he view patients who struggle with obesity? With hypertension related to diet, exercise and stress? With adult-onset diabetes? With politicians who lie and cheat on their spouse?”

He must think his answer about drug abuse and addiction explains all that ails America. Actually, it explains nothing when it comes to addiction.

I’m not singling out Dr. Carson for his politics. I am singling him out for his lack of reasoning and factual knowledge when it comes to addiction.

A number of people, including physicians, unfortunately, still often consider psychiatric illnesses and mental health struggles a moral issue or a “weakness” rather than a biological, social, or neurochemical issue that affect us in ways that other illnesses affect us.

Unfortunately, Dr. Carson’s all too common view interferes with individuals seeking and receiving treatment – treatment that is truly changing lives.

What we know about addictions is that they often take over the lives of good people with good marriages and good jobs, and people who live in wonderful communities.

Why is it that one brother develops an addiction and the other doesn’t?

Why is the reward experience from alcohol so completely all-consuming for some individuals that they cannot imagine life without alcohol, but not for others?

We do know this: when you ask alcohol or drugs to do something for you, it’s a path that can lead to destruction.

If you use alcohol (or another drug of choice) to help you relax after a long day with the kids or at the office; if you use alcohol or drugs because you want to be less nervous at a business meeting; if you use to forget about the troubles in your marriage by overindulging, you are asking for trouble.

And, if you really like the way it makes you feel, the rush of the pleasure, and you indulge frequently and in large amounts, you could end up on a long, difficult road.

Every day, it seems we are learning something new about the complexities of addiction.

Lest, anyone think differently, remind them of H.L. Mencken’s truism: “There is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”

Oh, and as a values and morals guy myself — and I hope it’s politically correct for me to say so — I promise not to perform neurosurgery. I’ll stick with addiction treatment and recovery.

-Kevin Gilliland, PsyD [email protected].