Addiction as a Disease is Getting a Lot of Pushback

1269623060_c7a02f2705_zI found sobriety in 1976 via a home for alcoholic women where we worked the first 3 steps of the AA program. We also had individual therapy: group therapy;  meetings in-home and out; a lady who taught us about breathing to fight panic; and many wonderful visitors. We also rotated all the chores in running the household. Loved toilet day. So I had an exceptional foundation and have never thought of alcohol again as a solution.

I have also 2 times been given wine at church altars and didn’t like it but didn’t want to spit it out on the pastor/priest. I had no desire for more alcohol. The compulsion was removed.

I also have depression/anxiety. I have to work on healing my depression daily. I do have a strong addiction recovery program which helps but I have to be continually vigilant about my depression.

So I understand the pushback about whether addiction is a disease. I either have to believe I am well or believe that I am sick. Because I spend much of my life working on my wellness, I see myself as a very healthy person.

I wasn’t in the last stage of my addiction but was in an earlier stage so that may have made it easier for me. I don’t know. I know I am an alcoholic. I know I found my salvation by working the 12 steps of AA.

1.  From Carolyn Gregoire writing in the Huffington Post: “Neuroscientist and Former Addict Explains What We Get Wong About Addiction”:

Marc Lewis, the author of Memoirs of an Addicted Brain and The Biology of Desire, insists that addiction is not a disease and that presenting it as such is harmful.

The brain changes seen in addiction have more to do with learning and development — not a chronic brain disease, said Lewis, who became addicted to opiates during his undergraduate years at Berkeley but got clean at age 30 and earned a PhD in developmental psychology. Viewing addiction as a behavioral issue, which has drawn critics and supporters, may pave the way for new approaches to recovery that target the psychological roots of addictive behavior.

Addiction is one of the most pressing public health issues in America. An estimated one in 10 Americans suffer from alcohol or drug dependency, while others have behavioral addictions, including porn, sex and gambling.

2,  From Marc Lewis–

I know what scientists are looking at when they say addiction is a disease. I don’t dispute the findings, but I dispute the interpretation of them. They see addiction as a chronic brain disease — that’s how they define it in very explicit terms.

My training is in emotional and personality development. I see addiction as a developmental process. So the brain changes that people talk about and have shown reliably in research can be seen as changes that are due to learning, to recurrent and deep learning experiences. But it’s not an abnormal experience and there’s nothing static or chronic about it, because people continue to change when they recover and come out of addiction. So the chronic label doesn’t make much sense.

What’s problematic about the way we treat addiction, based on the disease model? 

Well, lots. The rehab industry is a terrible mess — you either wait on a long list for state-sponsored rehabs that are poorly run or almost entirely 12-Step, or else you pay vast amounts of money for residential rehabs that usually last for 30-90 days and people often go about five to six times. It’s very difficult to maintain your sobriety when you go home and you’re back in your lonely little apartment.

What I emphasize is that the disease label makes it worse. You have experts saying, “You have a chronic brain disease and you need to get it treated. Why don’t you come here and spend $100,000 and we’ll help you treat it?” There’s a very strong motivation from the family, if not the individual, to go through this process, and then the treatments offered in these places are very seldom evidence-based, and the success rates are low.

Read more here.

Photo credit.


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