Addiction is not a disease: How AA and 12-step programs erect barriers while attempting to relieve suffering

Vangore (CC)

Vangore (CC)

Where do you stand on the addiction as disease debate? Marc Lewis firmly says addiction is not a disease while taking a slap at AA, writing at Salon:

The idea that addiction is some kind of disease is unquestionably the dominant view in government, medical, and most scientific circles around the world. So dominant in the West, for example, that US vice president Joe Biden introduced the Recognizing Addiction as a Disease Act for debate in the US Senate on March 28, 2007.

S. 1011: Recognizing Addiction as a Disease Act of 2007

(1) Addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain’s structure and manner in which it functions. These brain changes can be long lasting, and can lead to the harmful behaviors seen in people who abuse drugs. The disease of addiction affects both brain and behavior, and scientists have identified many of the biological and environmental factors that contribute to the development and progression of the disease.

Yet the concept that addiction is a disease is certainly not new. In fact, it’s been promoted and rebutted since the time of Aristotle (and other Greek and Egyptian scholars), and it has grown exponentially in authority and popularity since the early 1900s. This quote from a hundred years ago captures the flavour of the disease concept when it began to proliferate in the West:

The author considers it very unfortunate that the terms “morphine habit” and “opium habit” have been, and are still, so universally employed when referring to narcotic addiction (disease). They are misleading and do not, in any wise, accurately describe the condition present. . . . Habit implies something that can be corrected by an exercise of the will. . . . This is not true of narcotic disease; therefore, it is not a mere habit and should not be spoken of as such. . . .

The man who is addicted to a narcotic drug is as truly a diseased man as one who has typhoid fever or pneumonia.

How did this definition arise, and how has it evolved in our own time?…

[continues at Salon]


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