Statement of Intent

The World Health Organization has defined addiction as mental and physical disease, which inflicts everyone regardless of sex, social status, age, creed, and race. Due to the prevailing false assumption that addiction rarely happens to women, many female addicts in Japan are left untreated, not knowing where to get help or what is the appropriate treatment for their illness.

It has been 7 years since I founded a rehabilitation center for drug addicts in Nara, Japan. During these 7 years I have done many things that have never been done in Japan. Among them are the incorporation of proven recovery programs from United States, systematic intervention by trained professionals, and an employment program for graduating clients. We have also founded the Addiction Research Center in collaboration with academic researchers in the field of addiction. We have incorporated PTSD program into our treatment plan so that we can deal with the clients with addiction and trauma, to whom a standard recovery program would not work. Our personalized treatment planning has been attracting many people's attention. Our intervention hotline never stop ringing and the number of our clients tripled in last 2 years.

Now we receive increasing numbers of phone calls from desperate parents of addicted daughters. "Please help our daughter, Mr. Yazawa." "What can we do with our daughter? She has no place to turn for help." "How can she recover from this hopeless condition?" I grew really tired of having to apologize to these dismayed parents and say, "Sorry…I can't do anything for your daughter." I got finally fed up with myself doing nothing over this misery, and decided to take decisive action with our allied colleagues, Melody Beattie. They are all addiction counselors and interventionist from United States where addiction treatments are far more advanced than ones in Japan.

Most Japanese people still expect women to exhibit outdated feminine roles and to have a strong sense of shame, which makes it very difficult for addicted women and their family members to seek help. Consequently untreated addiction brings them further down to still more degrading environment. They become victims of violence and sexual abuse. They lose all the decent human connections. Many think that the only way to make a living is to prostitute themselves to men. Many addicted women are sent to prison, and are incarcerated again and again, while their children are neglected. The suicide rate amongst addicted people is appalling. In a society lacking the mind to support troubled women, a female addict is considered as a strange person with untreatable problems, an outcast. Please imagine how hard it is to raise their children while struggling with addiction. Please imagine how baffling it is to be brought up by an addicted mother.

In United States, there are about 17 million alcoholics. Approximately 10,000 rehab centers offer treatments for them. The population in Japan is about half as much as the United States, yet there are only about 100 treatment centers. Since the research results clearly indicate that genetics plays a major role in addiction the Japanese addicted populations must be similar in proportion to that in the U.S. Yet, the estimated number of alcoholics in Japan said to be around 2 million. This seems to be a serious underestimation.

Let's look at the number of self-help group members, which is a very good indicator of the size of the recovering alcoholic's population. The number of AA members in USA is estimated to be around 2 million, among which 650,000 members are female. The estimated number of self-help group members in Japan is 15,000, and female members are only around 2000. In the total population being just twice as many as in Japan, the United States has 300 times as many female recovering alcoholics. This contrast seems to tell a lot of things.

Recent research indicates that the molecular events that accompany drug abuse and addiction are different between men and women. The sex differences in the activity and distribution of alcohol dehydrogenase may explain the faster speed of progression among alcoholic women and the female-specific symptoms of addiction. Sex related differences in brain structure indicate that treatment protocols for emotional literacy need to be designed differently due to the difference in the way women and men process thoughts and emotions. Issues of shame and abuse differ between women and men.

Most of the treatment centers with good results in the U.S. offer gender specific treatment programs, and/or impose very strict rules regarding the conducts toward the opposite sex in their facility, in order to keep the appropriate environment for the recovery treatments. Every rehab staff member in America knows the word, "detox romance", which warns against relationships between clients in early phase of addiction treatment. Most clients do not understand they are just replacing the target of addiction with opposite sex to feel the instant gratification. They often leave the treatment and relapse. Many of them die. Gender specific treatment is also needed for women so they can work through their shame, become free from all dependencies and obtain skills needed for employment so they can become productive citizens that contribute to society.

There is an urgent need for places, in which recovery programs specifically designed for the female addicts are offered. We believe that it is our duty to change the status quo, and hereby started a planning committee of addiction treatment center for women. We want you to understand our sincere wishes to build the social foundation to provide every addicted woman with a decent treatment program, and strongly ask for your support for our cause.

Please realize that there are a lot of addicted women and their family members, feeling hopeless and helpless and thinking that there is no way out. We intend to build a decent treatment center for them.

Addiction is an illness. Addiction is the problem. The problem is the problem, not the person. Addicted women are sick, not bad, and need to be helped. Social environment has not developed enough in Japan for addiction treatment for women to be thought of as a basic element in the society. Our treatment center will have a quality comparable to treatment centers in the United States.

There was a woman called Raicho Hiratsuka, who was a pioneering Japanese feminist and a political activist. She left beautiful words of wisdom about Japanese women.

"In the beginning, woman was truly the sun. An authentic person. Now she is the moon, a wan and sickly moon, dependent on another, reflecting another's brilliance."

I sincerely want Japanese addicted women to get their lives and brilliance back again.