Drug addiction viewed as a disease?
So today in my Human Services class we had a guest speaker talk about addiction and working with people who suffer from addictions. She said that (with no room to disagree) addictions are diseases, comparing them even to cancer and diabetes.
Well, although I didn’t bring it up to her (it’s a fairly short class and she didn’t have much time to complete her presentation) I disagree. I see addiction as a consequence to a choice. Most people (not including kids exposed at young ages) are aware of the dangerous side effects of many drugs prior to actually trying them, therefore, I believe it cannot be considered a disease.
What do you guys think? This is a huge debate in the psychological realm and really fascinates me. Also, I’m not trying to undermine the tragedy of being addicted to any substance, just looking into how others see addiction.
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@heavydreamz, you just made it worse. so you’re telling me that I expect myself to be an addict that’s why I became one? you’re telling me I expect myself to relapse that’s why i struglle to stay clean everyday?
stop preaching something you have no understading of.
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@laurenlouise, Let’s simplify this matter for you. Look at the word disease. Now, break it into two parts. Dis-ease= not being at ease. Anything which aligns with this can be considered a disease in my opinion.
@vinabeans, believe it or not I’ve been there and I’m with you. I was in a 12 step program for 3 1/2 years. Eventually I realized these programs are full of low expectations, now I realize that our entire society thrives off them. I understand it works for people to make a better life by ‘surrendering’ but to say you have a disease you can never get rid of is selling yourself short. I personally believe a more radical change in lifestyle is the best medicine. I changed my diet and my brain changed. I started meditating and I began to see how I was unable to be in my own head so I was just looking for external things to distract me.. Drugs, alcohol, food, caffeine, tobacco, relationships, drama, anger, it’s all the same, I need something to keep me out of my head and it’s a minute to minute battle. I literally replaced my ‘drug’ addiction with an addiction to meetings, but now i realize that there is no addiction, its just me and my head. I become aware what I really need is to take a breath and remind myself that anything is possible and that its entirely up to me because the way I look at something creates my life. Stop focusing on the problem and start doing what makes you truly happy. Drugs are fucked up, especially the ones that are designed to keep you coming back.. that phrase sound familiar?
@laurenlouise, Reminds me of the southpark episode where Stan finds out he is an alcoholic and that it’s not an addiction but a disease. He starts demanding special treatment and all other absurd shit and acts like he has no control over his “disease.” I agree with Jameson though, it’s the result of an underlying issue. Addiction changes brain chemistry also, which could be an explanation as to why it’s so hard to quit and people feel powerless over their addiction.
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@vinabeans, As someone who has experiences addiction and been to rehab, what did you think of the book? My mom has been struggling with addiction for years and years and has been to rehab multiple times and I suggested she read it but I’m not sure how she will feel about it since she will be reading it with a totally different perspective than I did.
@trek79, Still, I don’t agree with the disease model. You seem to be talking about one extreme of addiction. There are so many degrees of addiction.
I agree, that caring is sometimes about taking control in some aspects, maybe as a loved one, or if someone needs to be institutionalized due to a serious mental health condition. However, there IS a choice in addiction. It may not seem that way, but there is. The person’s life may be so out of control due to their addiction, and it may have been out of control prior to their addiction. It doesn’t mean that an outside person taking control, and acting like the addicted person has no control will help.
Generally it would be better to show them that if they wish to, they can take control of their addiction. It may sound harsh (but I have first hand experience of this myself), but acting like an addicted person just has a disease doesn’t empower them to change what’s really going on. We can change everything around the person, we can tell them what to change about their though processes…but it’s not going to happen if the person doesn’t a) have a reason/ motivation to change, or b) have the confidence to change.
I think if you act like someone has a disease when they are addicted, it makes it harder to kick it. I mean, it takes the control from the person because we get diseases for no real reason most of the time, or reasons generally that are out of our control.
We can wish to change a person as much as we want, we can try to change their addiction too. However, if they don’t want to, or don’t have the confidence too…then they won’t. It is ultimately up to them.
Also, I think yes Psychology teaches that no one approach fits all…but I think in the real world, most of the time, it is far more simplistic than people like to admit.
@lifetimeclimber, Hahahaha! What a great example!
I think a huge reason why addiction is so challenging to overcome is because those underlying issues aren’t dealt with. I see addiction as a symptom, not an actual issue necessarily.
As an alcoholic/addict in recovery I can tell you it is not a consequence of a choice. Alcoholism is something you are born with. It is not a result of childhood experiences or traumatic events. Sure the drugs and alcohol hid the pain of the traumatic experiences I had as a child and continued to have throughout using, but that is not what drove my using. The alcoholic/addict defined in recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous is a person suffering from three points, an obsession of the mind, a phenomenon of craving, and a spiritual malady. For me the obsession of the mind consisted of always thinking about drugs, where to hide them, when I can get high again, ect. The phenomenon of craving is a physical reaction to drugs and alcohol. A simple way to explain the phenomenon of craving is right now I would not trade my family, friends, ect. for one shot of 151, but if I drank one shot of 151, I would give up everything for the second shot. It is nearly impossible to overcome the phenomenon of craving with willpower. The spiritual malady is similar to depression, but does not include a dopamine deficiency in the brain . It includes negative thoughts, terribly low self-esteem, ect. Keep in mind that physical dependency and addiction are different. As for the word “disease” I also don’t really throw around that term very much. There’s really no classification for it other than those three points. Technically speaking its a retardant.
I don’t like the term either. It’s not congruent with any other ‘disease’ (except perhaps obesity, but I don’t really think that’s one either) and imo, is just a convenient euphemism. America loves euphemisms if you haven’t noticed. And I’m not some straight-edge-agenda-pushing-do-gooder, I actually take pretty lenient stance towards drugs, I just think that we should be more clear in our terminology. If I was a conspirator this is when I’d say that they call it disease just to make more money on drugs, like methadone (ironic), and treatment. I also believe the condition isn’t genetic; it’s mostly based on childhood experiences.
@trek79, I agree with you when you say we can ‘blame’ things all we want but it won’t change anything. It won’t. However, it shouldn’t be about blaming anything or anyone. It should be about understanding. There is a difference between Blaming parents for someone’s upbringing, and understanding the impact that certain parenting styles have had on an individual.
I think it’s not as black and white as that. Yes, people with addictions don’t necessarily make the right choices. Their values and morals may be mixed up…however, they can get there with understanding and guidance. There is no use telling them that they have no control over their situation and that they can’t make the right decisions for themselves. Where is the empowerment in that?
Many people with addictions (and again, this is not about blaming) do need to face up to their issues in order to heal. I needed to. I had people sugar coating things for me, telling me I had no control, and that just gave me another excuse to have a ‘slip up’. Yes, I realise everyone is different! However I don’t believe taking the control from anyone solves anything. Maybe if someone has certain personal schema where they blame themselves for things that are not their fault, and their self blame leads to their addiction. However, I think the underlying issue here of where the self blame is coming from would be better to explore.
I don’t think it is a simple as blaming and controlling. I think you have a point in people making irrational decisions if they have a serious mental health issue. However, if we are talking about addiction, then I don’t think there is any use in telling people that they have little control over picking up that bong/ bottle/ pipe or whatever. That’s like telling a victim in an abusive situation that he/she has no control to leave even if he/she wants to.
Just my opinion though, maybe we just have completely different ideas and (perhaps) experiences with addiction.
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we are co-evolving with everything we come in contact with that can potentially benefit us in any way shape or form. take one thing out of moderation and the whole pyramid falls, even if it means having to try something to check it off the list. addiction is mental, addiction is over-connecting and relying on one particular thought pattern that is a deviant of the moderation pattern(rationalized usage) in some way shape or form but allows your mind to rationalize it if you have suicidal or schizophrenic tendencies because it is how our program rids itself of faulty code. every illness has a mind aspect regardless of if the effects are fully body. find enlightenment and you fulfill the full extent of your life regardless of how long you live.
being born with something, and honestly learning the wrong way are very different.
Addiction is like anything else, There is a continuum in human behavior and at an arbitrary point society has decided that it is a disease. Which is a bummer for everyone just before that point.
Sorry for the long comment, I read the whole thread and have been pondering this for a while now.
@laurenlouise I think addiction is such a broad concept that you cannot brand it a disease or not a disease because it varies with each person and each substance or behavior. If someone grew up in a household where their parents were habitual meth users and they started drinking and doing drugs themselves at a young age then over time they might develop a dependency on certain things to satisfy their cravings, escape from realities, or even just get through the day. In that sense, when it is an intricate part of your life, you grew up with it and/or can’t get away from it now, then I could understand someone calling their addiction a disease.
On the other hand if you grew up in an ideal setting where you weren’t exposed to abuse and had a somewhat easy lifestyle and only sought out substances on your own when you were old enough to understand their place and consequences then it is more a matter of free will.
There is also the nature of the addiction for example being addicted to weed vs. heroin. If you smoke pot all day and think/admit to yourself you’re addicted and then stop cold turkey you could become anxious or uneasy, maybe even suffer from some headaches or something but for the most part it would just be a craving and not too serious. Whereas if you’re addicted to h and you quit your body goes through withdraws, you feel weak and seriously sick, throwing up and such quite possibly to the point where it would be very hard to go about your routines without indulging.
I’m not trying to sit on the fence but I think it’s much more complicated than simply labeling addiction a disease or not because it totally depends on the circumstance. There’s the factor that people are largely products of their environment, and there’s the idea that people can become addicted to a whole mess of things such as coffee, cocaine, fast food, cigarettes, facebook, running, sex, shopping and lying. Some things are more addicting than others, and in different magnitudes to different people.
If I had to make a decision, I would say that in general addiction is not a disease, simply because more often than not it seems like people are able to overcome it with willpower, and others do not let themselves become addicted to something through that same control. But it is not that simple, because there are people out there who try really hard to get over something and they still can’t because it is such an intricate part of their lives. And I’m not saying that you have to be brought up around it either; some people are just naturally more likely to be continuously influenced by certain experiences. Hopefully recognizing that would not give them the desire to claim little responsibility for their actions, but at least it would help them tackle the problem from its roots or key aspects. Truly the person who can most correctly distinguish the amount of freewill or imbedded disease there is with an addiction is the person with it, (or mayybe a very close friend). This might be hard to do accurately, but not impossible.
Whether you label an example of addiction a disease or not could play an intricate part in overcoming it. If you notice that you have tendencies to overindulge when you get high on one thing, you probably want to keep that in mind when you get high on another. Some people are more susceptible to cravings than others. I personally have not really had a struggle with any sort of addiction, so I cannot claim to understand it fully. But I do have a friend who was using heroin on a regular basis and suffered from withdraws when he ran out of money and even after a few days of being clean it sometimes consumed his thoughts and desires. We all go by our own experiences and encounters of other peoples’ experiences so of course there’s going to be different views on whether addiction is a disease but I would hope that most people can come to the general consensus that it does vary from case to case.