Addiction stems from personal choice

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The vast majority of addictions are the result of people making poor choices. Now all of a sudden we have made them a medical problem, a disease!

Addiction as a disease is not supported by any evidence and is more like a political policy statement than a reasoned intellectual argument. There has been a steady erosion of individual responsibility and the loss of personal blame for bad choices. Calls to destigmatize addiction remove any sense of personal responsibility.

Addiction does not meet the criteria specified for a core disease entity, period. In other words, the presence of a primary measurable deviation from physiologic or anatomical norm. Addiction is self-acquired, not transmissible, contagious, autoimmune, hereditary, degenerative or traumatic. Treatment consists of little more than stopping a given behaviour.

True diseases worsen if left untreated. Take a diabetic, a heroin addict, an alcoholic and lock them up for three months without their drug of choice. The heroin addict is cured until they choose to take another “hit,” the alcoholic is cured until they choose to have another drink. What happens to the diabetic? Well, he dies, no insulin.

Criminal courts do not hand down verdicts of “not guilty by virtue of mental illness” to drunk drivers who kill pedestrians. At best, addiction is a maladaptive response to an underlying condition, such as depression or a nonspecific inability to cope with the world. Medicalizing addiction has not led to any advances at the individual level.

The need for helping people with addiction is not in doubt, but social problems require social intervention. So, should we keep funding programs for addictions from our health-care budget? I think not!

Karl Hawley

St. John’s

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Recent comments

  • Holier than thou
    January 18, 2016 - 15:43

    It must be nice being able to see the world in colours of black & white. I don't remember the last time I read such ignorant dribble.

  • Matt
    January 18, 2016 - 00:29

    It sounds as though the author is proposing we deny health care to people who are responsible in some part for their condition, such as people who have accidents engaging in sports, or health problems due to sedentary lifestyles and poor diets. In reality, most chronic psychotropic drug use is self-medication of emotional and psychological problems, usually stemming from childhood trauma. Most heroin addicts, for example, were abused as children. That was not their choice.

  • Michael Reddy
    January 17, 2016 - 20:06

    I couldn't agree more with Mr. Hawley. Lack of self control is not a disease. It's a choice, a bad choice which many continue to make, and we ask a society allow it. Nothing is anyone's fault anymore. If I decide to blow my check in the vlts its my choice, or smoke, drink or do drugs at the end of the day it's my choice. I'm not saying it's easy to kick any of these habits, but this disease ideology has to stop otherwise no one takes responsibility for their actions and choices. This addiction as a disease theme simply acts as a mask which allows people to do what they want without taking responsibility for their actions.

  • jerome
    January 17, 2016 - 16:00

    Karl I agree with you, addiction is not a disease, we all have choices in how we live our lives, but it is one we choose. Addictions are difficult to overcome no doubt, but with enough perseverance we can over come it. There are enough choices of misery in the world if we want to avail of them , or we deal with our problems head on and get on with our lives, but it is up to the individual.

  • james
    January 17, 2016 - 10:18

    time for doctors to wake up they are suppose to help people not destroy them

  • Waiting in Line
    January 16, 2016 - 22:47

    I agree and to top it off just check out the pharmacy in Bay Roberts where the drug addicts wait in line for their fix (methadone) every day at the taxpayers expense. They then go out and drive away - on methadone.

  • Errol
    January 16, 2016 - 16:50

    Your juvenile and simplistic statement is pure, abject drivel. "Not supported by any evidence" as far as anyone needs to read.

    • Louis Humphreys
      January 17, 2016 - 13:29

      Obviously, the writer has no idea what they are talking about.

  • Stephen  Redgrave
    Stephen Redgrave
    January 16, 2016 - 09:26

    Mr Hawkley: If we do nothing about the growing addiction problem, it will ultimately cost our health care system a lot more over the long haul. And in what universe does Newfoundland have real addiction treatment centre? Get real , or shut up.

  • Stephen  Redgrave
    Stephen Redgrave
    January 16, 2016 - 09:03

    Addiction is not a choice for virtually all addicts regardless of the drug they are on (marijuana not included). There are millions of addict that were given drugs by their doctor after an injury--then there are the children up to age 16, who have very little say in what their older brother, sister, or even worse, an adult family member gives to them. It's a "misery loves company" scenario in almost every case. Choosing to do nothing about an admitted addiction--now that is a "choice". The fact still remains. We , the province of Newfoundland need a drug treatment centre ((long term) of 12-20 weeks to be effective. As of today, we have nothing close. Drug addicts have no one to turn to except family who may care enough to try and help.

  • Reginald
    January 16, 2016 - 06:00

    I look forward to reading your thesis in.... Sorry, what medical journals are you published in, Dr. Someguywithanopinion?