We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Tuesday, February 16. 2016
Addiction and desire
Interestingly, I do not think I have ever met an addict or ex-addict who considered themselves to be a "victim" of a disease. Basically, the term "disease" is a flexible one to the point that almost everybody can be labeled with one or another, so I do not know whether it matters.
A book of interest by Marc Lewis: The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not a Disease
Posted by Dr. Joy Bliss in Psychology, and Dr. Bliss at 15:47 | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)
Trackback specific URI for this entry
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
Well... I'm not so sure it is black and white. Drug addictions (alcohol and smoking too) are far worse for some people than others. There is probably a genetic component in addiction that the person cannot resist and in this way it is much like any mental illness and some genetic diseases that are recognized as a disease. So are the genetic disorders not diseases too?
I know alcoholics and they cannot kick it. Someone will be quick to say but many do kick it and there is the rub. Like many genetic diseases it is worse for different people and better for others. The alcoholic community is full of people who have been alcoholics all their lives and despite many attempts and much effort to kick the addiction they did not. Are they sick, weak, or what? Many people cannot and do not become addicted to alcohol or smoking and many people do not become addicted to some of the most addictive hard drugs. Why not? Because they do not have the genetic 'disease'.
I think "disease" now has a vague enough meaning that one could take either side of the argument. I am in my 60's and the term has associations for me that make "conditions" like addiction not fit the definition. As I understand it, medical schools have expanded their definitions of what constitutes a disease in all areas, not just behavioral health. That makes sense from their POV, but they have a long-term stake in that outlook, don't they?
Addiction is behavior; behavior is learned. What is learned can be unlearned, but that can be difficult because the dopamine in your body creates such pleasurable effect when it's "on" and the body reacts so negatively when you deprive it of a dopamine stimulant.
Smoking cigarettes is one of the most intense, addictive behaviors around, yet for years, millions have given up their addiction to them without any outside force or treatments.
As noted, for the claim that addiction is a "disease", follow the money!
I think what you say is correct for some people. It is correct for me. I could not get addicted to alcohol or cigarettes if I tried and I did. But severely addicted smokers and drinkers can not quit even when they want to. They are physiologically different from me and apparently from you. So when we try to apply our reality to their addiction we conclude they are just weak or unwilling. But they are really addicted to a product that doesn't mean diddly squat to you or I and it is those of us who do not have that 'disease' who simply do not understand it.
There is a genetic/physiological component there. Same with all or most other addictions.
Of course there's a lot of things called "addiction" now that aren't, basically anything done to excess and worse, anything someone does that "society" doesn't "approve of".
You can hardly say my mother's morphine addiction was voluntary through her behaviour for example. She was in a coma when she became addicted through an infusion of morphine, TWICE.
Same with many heroin addicts. They become addicted by the first dose.
I tend to think that addiction is a both/and. Partly genetic susceptibility (or possibility some acquired physiological susceptibility--it can be triggered, for example, by being put on the wrong psych meds. Or some theories now explore links between gut bacteria and mental health: see this study and others like it investigating links between gut hormones and addiction/obesity and myriad bad habits. https://www1.imperial.ac.uk/departmentofmedicine/divisions/brainsciences/psychopharmacology/ghaddstudy/)
But there is clearly also a moral and spiritual element. AA, loving friends, responsibility for family, patriotism, church, having a cause bigger than oneself are part of recovery. It's a long painful slog. And idealism and altruism heal better than any pill.
I'm still inclined to think that there are basic physiological differences in addict's brains, not just character weakness. After all Alexander the Great and Winston Churchill were probably alcoholics yet they did great things.
Also, even the most ardently recovered addicts tend to develop substitute addictions in recovery. Sometimes to AA, sometimes to therapy, often to food, sometimes gambling or overspending, sometimes exercise. Their reward centers in the brain aren't normal. They need more, more , more. Many struggle for years in recovery feeling like empty shells, like living dead. Ordinary people should count their blessings.
This does not mean giving a free pass to sloppy drunks and relapsing slobs who abandon their responsibilities. But addiction is complicated. My own metaphor for addicts in recovery is rescue dogs. I like rescue dogs. Own one. Still, most people prefer pedigreed retrievers who are a known quantity, look good, behave well. Rescue dogs are traumatized, unreliable, need patience because they have a lot to heal from. They bark and snap at first. Are anxious and needy. But they become faithful loyal and true, shown love, guided back to civilized life.
Usually agree with much of what I see at Maggie's but I must say "Dr" Bliss is off the mark here . . . the book referenced is trash science at best, using a small sample size to make gross generalizations. Also don't think many addicts revel in the thought of being heroic victims to reduce the shame they feel about past actions -- most just want to kick their habit and can't figure out why others can and they can't. To suggest otherwise is pretty insulting and insensitive. Simplistic posts about complex topics generally don't work . . .
There are plenty of alcoholics who do not take responsibility for their addiction and blame others for their drinking habits. I respectfully have to disagree with the statement made in the post.
I was addicted to the Hokey Pokey, but then I turned myself around...........
I recall in the early 70's through pressure mainly from feminists, pregnancy was designated as a disease to allow coverage under health insurance policies. I think such things help prove you right about the term "disease" being a flexible one.
As a daily visitor to and big fan of Maggie's Farm, i finally feel like 'chiming in'.... I am an alcoholic...I'm 51, and drank since 18 or so...but for the past 10 years or so i was up to drinking about 2 half gallon bottles of booze per week... i have now been sober for 50 some days...and i just completed a 6 week outpatient treatment program, that, yes was covered by my insurance (BCBS)...and the official title of my 'disease' was -moderate alcohol abuse disorder.... i would argue in my daily group sessions about the disease aspect of things..illness, yes, disease? well, that makes it sound like its not my fault...but it is...yes, my dad, his dad, and his dad were all drinkers....so sure its hereditary...but i don't blame them....I'm responsible!!.... But there is more than just stopping drinking for the alcoholic...i cannot control it...I am allergic to alcohol.... a person who has a peanut allergy becomes violently ill if they consume any...much in the same way...if i have a drink tonight...lookout, cause I'm gonna make it a good hum dinger of a night!! Have one or two glasses of wine tonight with a meal? ha!....not me...my body just wants more and more...so unlike a 'normal' person who can control their drinking...i cannot.... does that make it a disease? maybe
Congratulations on your going sober, Dickie! I wish you all the strength in the world to continue in that way.
Don't be a stranger!