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Dr. Drew: Pointed questions on 'wet houses'
Men drink outside of St Anthony Residence, a wet house in St. Paul, Minnesota.
May 11th, 2011
11:07 AM ET

Dr. Drew: Pointed questions on 'wet houses'

Editor's note: “Dr. Drew” dives into the debate around “wet houses,” where chronic alcoholics are allowed to drink, 9 p.m. ET Wednesday on HLN.

I have no problem, in principle, with wet houses - essentially, places where alcoholics can drink until they die. I have no problem with them for some people. I wouldn’t want anyone I love to live in one. But I don’t want to take away someone’s right to a dignified death even if it’s because of a treatable condition like alcoholism.

Let’s face it. There are some cases that just can’t be treated: those with such severe brain damage, there’s no chance of meaningful life, and those with irreversible liver damage who do not meet criteria for transplantation

Still, I have some questions and you should too before a “wet house” becomes an option, or last resort.

What exactly are these places? What are their goals? Are they harm-avoidance centers or hospices? The people running these places have to be clear about they are doing.

I want to know if they are actually doing more harm than good. What motivates most people to change their behavior is consequences. No consequences? No behavior modification.

Some have observed that alcoholics who are allowed to drink more may actually drink less. But if wet houses are end-of-the-line outposts, why would that even matter?

Treatment of alcohol addiction can take many forms. Is any treatment at all being offered? And if there is - beyond comfort measures– then that’s not the hospice philosophy of care. It seems to me that these organizations sometimes use terminology that suggests this is a harm-avoidance option. But this, too, is a treatment, not hospice.

Another thing to think about: Who determines who lives in a wet house? I don’t believe just anyone should decide. Professional assessment is essential. And perhaps that’s being done.

If wet houses provide safety, comfort and some measure of respect for those with a serious illness, they may be the best choice for some.

I don’t know, yet. I’d like answers to the few questions I’ve posed here, and several others, before deciding. I’m open to any discussion about the wet house concept. We can all make better decisions when we’re informed.

We’ll be talking about wet houses on Wednesday’s “Dr. Drew." It airs on HLN at 9 p.m. ET. Until then, I’m keeping an open mind and looking forward to starting the dialogue.


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