Quiz: How Much Do You Know About the History of Addiction Treatment?

The history of addiction treatment in the United States is a colorful, confusing and contradictory one. It’s best chronicled in William White’s book, Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America (2nd edition, 2014), a rich, deeply researched book that includes no end of detail about the players and events that propelled treatment forward or set it back.

1. Who is referred to as the “father of addiction medicine”?

a. Benjamin Rush
b. Benjamin Franklin
c. John Adams
d. Mark Twain

a. Benjamin Rush (1746-1813) was in fact friends with President John Adams and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He campaigned vigorously against alcohol, and was, as an article in the American Journal of Public Health describes him, “deeply committed to educating people about the hazards of distilled alcoholic beverages, which were so abundant and inexpensive in the United States during the late 18th and early 19th centuries that their excessive use constituted a major public health problem.” His system for treating alcoholism brought him, though, great notoriety (he was accused of killing, rather than curing, alcoholics).

2. In the mid-20th century, one U.S. state in particular was known for its high concentration of addiction treatment centers: Which one was it?

a. California
b. Hawaii
c. Minnesota
d. New Hampshire

c. Minnesota. According to Slaying the Dragon, in 1981 the state had 3,800 beds for the treatment of alcoholism. The growth of Alcoholics Anonymous and treatment centers in the state in the 1940s and 1950s fostered the birth of “the Minnesota Model,” a philosophy of treatment for alcoholism founded on 11 tenets.

3. What 12-step group was the first spinoff from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)?

a. Addicts Anonymous
b. Marijuana Anonymous
c. Opium Anonymous
d. Sex Addicts Anonymous

a. Addicts Anonymous. The group first met in February 1947 in Lexington, Kentucky. In 1949, Danny C. started an Addicts Anonymous group in New York City but called it Narcotics Anonymous (NA), though in Slaying the Dragon, author William White notes that this was not the same NA as the current group of the same name.

4. What was the “Keeley Cure”?

a. A treatment for alcoholism that relied on substituting opium for booze
b. An addiction treatment in which injections of “bichloride of gold” were given
c. A treatment for marijuana addiction that required sitting in a sweat lodge while smoking copious amounts of the plant
d. A prayer-based approach to treating addiction in which six people laid hands on the addict to exorcise evil spirits from the person’s body

b. An addiction treatment in which injections of “bichloride of gold” were given. In 1879, Dr. Leslie Keeley founded the first Keeley Institute in Dwight, Illinois, to treat addiction to alcohol, nicotine and narcotics. By the 1890s, every U.S state had a Keeley Institute of its own, according to the North Dakota State Universities Library Archive. And between September 1892 and September 1893, nearly 15,000 people had taken the Keeley Cure, but the treatment was ultimately proven to be a fraud.

5. The U.S. is currently dealing with epidemic rates of opioid addiction and overdoses, but this is far from the first time the country has dealt with this problem, which first emerged in the U.S. in the 19th century, during and after the Civil War. Which group was most affected by opioid addiction through the abuse of opium, morphine and laudanum?

a. Civil War veterans
b. African Americans newly freed from slavery
c. Chinese immigrants
d. Caucasian women

d. Caucasian women. By the late 19th century, about two-thirds of those who were addicted to opioids were middle- and upper-class white women who mostly took the drugs to relieve menstrual and menopausal symptoms and other “female troubles.” By 1900, about 300,000 Americans were opioid addicts. According to 2012 SAMHSA data, about 2 million people now have a substance use disorder to prescription opioid pain relievers and an estimated 467,000 are addicted to heroin, another opioid.

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