Abstract Kurt Vonnegut was one of the most influential novelists of the late 20th Century. His wry views of people and organizations are applicable to the today's efforts to use science to improve the effectiveness of substance use treatment programs. His 1963 book, Cat's Cradle pointed to the potentially disastrous consequences of the development of science for science's sake. Moving to more current viewpoints, in 2009 the young writer and medical doctor Josh Bazell published Beat the Reaper , a novel that discusses modern medical care and pharmaceutical treatments with sarcasm and wit. Currently we are witnessing many developments to incorporate evidence-based practices into addiction treatment, ranging from Institute of Medicine overviews to the organization the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, fielding the National Registry of National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices for preventing and treating substance abuse and mental health disorders, legislative initiatives, efforts to upgrade the treatment workforce and, most recently, health care reform. There are signs that these and other efforts are upgrading the effectiveness of treatments for addiction. Yet the checks and balances of every effort to create change make for a field that shows halting and peripatetic development. “Top-down” reforms are watered down by “bottom-up” approaches, and vice-versa. Several concrete steps can be taken to improve the magnitude and speed of change in the field. We cannot change human nature, but we can improve addiction treatment.