individuals often pass themselves off as such by their sheer audacity and overconfidence. Their appeal is their forceful manner and convincing language. Such people in our field maintain that their years of experience (and often that experience alone) qualify them to profess certain “facts” concerning addiction. They tout 20 or 30 years working in the field as their authority credential. To some extent this longevity appraisal is reasonable. Knowledgeable professionals generally have spent longer periods of time devoted to a subject than unknowledgeable ones, but time in the field alone is not sufficient to claim expertise (Sexton, Whiston, Bleuer, & Walz, 1997).
Some “expert” addiction professionals possess some kind of state or national certificate or license, and therein lies their lure. Many of our well-known spokespersons have an M.D., Ph.D., or other prestigious degree(s) after their names. In addition, many carry a title like director or president. All these credentials and titles cry out: authority figure.
Authorities also carry weight because of the books they write, or videos and DVDs they produce. Many people assume that those who can do these things, must know what they're talking about. Sometimes these “experts” don't have titles or haven't written any books. All they believe they need is personal experience with the problem. That is, they need only indicate that they are recovering themselves to carry the aura of authority.
Just because someone has a fancy title, a degree, or a past addiction; has written books; or narrates a set of DVDs doesn't mean that person has a corner on addiction facts. Such people have frequently turned out to be a lot of show with little evidence to shore up their “facts.”
All of us have a tendency to buy into what authority figures say even if they don't supply supportive data. One reason is that in our youth we generally were taught to respect our elders and authority figures (Gambrill, 1990). As children, we took in all kinds of information solely based on authority (Moldoveanu & Langer, 2002). Tell children a pleasant myth and they will generally take it as the truth. People in our field sometimes pick up information via the same method. They are told something by an authority and they simply believe it. For much of its existence, the addiction field has overrelied on authorities. It seems mesmerized by certain “names.”