Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Addiction not a disease but rather a lifestyle choice

In 1991 non-expert Herbert Fingarette dismantled the disease model of alcoholism, determining that heavy drinking is, more than anything else, a lifestyle choice. Fingarette's book went largely ignored by alcohol abusers and the highly profitable addiction treatment industry which found it convenient to continue to rely on the disease model of addiction which absolves addicts of all responsibility.

Addiction: A Disorder of Choice by psychologist Gene Heyman, "a research psychologist at McLean Hospital and a lecturer at Harvard" confirms Fingarette's findings:

Heyman mounts a devastating assault on the brain-based model of addiction. Not that he views addiction as independent of the brain—no serious person could even entertain such a claim. What he rejects, however, is the notion that excessive drug or alcohol consumption is an irresistible act wholly beyond the user’s control, as the term “addiction,” commonly understood, implies. If anything, Heyman writes, “[a]ddiction … helps us understand voluntary behavior.” How so? “[B]ecause,” he explains, “it is not possible to understand addiction without understanding how we make choices.”

This methodical, clear, and concise book shows why. Addiction: A Disorder of Choice is an invaluable tutorial in how to think about drug addiction. In bucking the medicalization trend, Heyman pits himself squarely against the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the nation’s main research facility on addiction, which coined the slogan that “addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain disease.” Since then, the institute’s brain disease model has been widely adopted. It is promoted at major rehab institutions such as the Betty Ford Center and Hazelden and is now a staple of anti-drug education in high schools and of counselor education. "The emerging paradigm views addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disorder," said a Newsweek cover story on addiction.

Heyman will, of course, be attacked by substance abusers and the treatment industry that makes millions catering to their "disease" fantasies. Many of these "disease model" treatment programs are, in fact, counter-productive but are hugely profitable, funded as they are, by health insurers paying for "revolving door" treatment programs.


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