ALEF had its own good news to share yesterday, so we had to skip Tuesday’s Google Doodle. We couldn’t ignore it completely though. Why? Because that was the day Google Doodle got addiction treatment.
And we literally mean got it. In other words, they got the facts, they got the reasoning , and, most importantly, they got to cite an all-time addiction treatment pioneer.
We’re talking about Dr. Herbert Kleber, who received the Google Doodle treatment on the 23rd anniversary of his election to the National Academy of Medicine. Kleber is the man who pioneered modern addiction treatment in the U.S. And his Google Doodle is well-earned.
See, before Dr. Herbert Kleber came along, substance abuse treatment was mostly ineffective. Now, things are different. Much different. And all because Dr. Kleber flipped the script. Addiction is a disease, claimed the good Doctor. And it needs to be treated as such.
Dr. Kleber didn’t set out to flip the script on addiction. But back in 1964, while he was assigned to a government-run prison hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, Kleber came against some unavoidable facts. The “work” and group therapy treatments weren’t having much effect on most of the prison’s addicts. In fact, about 90% of them relapsed shortly after their release. So he decided to approach addiction as if it were a medical condition.
Medical conditions require medicines, naturally, and Kleber set out to provide just that. The medicine he chose was methadone. And Kleber was one of the first to employ the drug to treat drug addiction. Later at Yale, he’d incorporate methadone into a more holistic approach to drug treatment. And that, of course, set the foundation for what we all now know is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).
One of the President’s Men
Dr. Kleber’s efforts caught the eye of President George H.W. Bush, who appointed him Deputy Director for Demand Reduction at the Office of National Drug Control Policy. It was a heady post. But certainly befitting his station. It also gave Kleber an opportunity to launch demand-reducing education and prevention programs.
Later Kleber and his wife Marian Fischman joined Columbia University’s department of psychiatry. There the pair spearheaded the National Policy Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. For 20 years, Dr. Kleber studied the effects of drugs on drug treatment. And he never once gave up hope of finding a successful, effective method to treat SUD.
Dr. Kleber died of a heart attack while vacationing in Greece back in October 2018, but his earning a Google Doodle for addiction treatment proves his legacy lives on. It’s also a great way to celebrate how much positivity he brought to a very stigmatized field.
“How else do I work with addicts for 40 years?” he said in a 2015 oral history for Columbia. “I’m a perpetual optimist.”