Alcoholism: a Disease or an Addiction?

Topics: Alcohol abuse, Alcoholism, Alcohol Pages: 5 (1887 words) Published: October 8, 1999
Most people have a confused idea of alcoholism as a disease that invades or attacks your good health. Use of such a strong word such as "disease" shapes the values and attitudes of society towards alcoholics. A major implication of the disease concept is that what is labeled a "disease" is held to be justifiable because it is involuntary. This is not so. Problem drinking is a habit in which the so-called "alcoholic" simply has decided that the benefits of drinking outweigh the liabilities; it is all a matter of personal choice. An alcoholic participates in or causes many of their own problems by their behavior and the decisions they make, so why should they be viewed as helpless victims of a "disease"(Skipper 1)? Alcoholism should not be viewed as a disease, but as an addiction brought about by the alcoholic's personal choices.

What is wrong with disease theories as science is that they are tautologies; they avoid the work of understanding why people drink. People seek specific, essential human experiences from their addictive involvement. They can come to depend on such an involvement for these experiences until -- in the extreme -- the involvement is totally consuming and potentially destructive (Peele 146). The idea that alcoholism is a "disease", which is only typified by the loss of control, was only sanctioned by the American Medical Association in 1956 (Wilbanks 39). The AMA gives the following definition for alcoholism: " Alcoholism is an illness characterized by preoccupation with alcohol and loss of control over its consumption, such as to lead usually to intoxication if drinking; by chronicity, by progression and by a tendency toward relapse. It is typically associated with physical disability and impaired emotional, occupational and/or social adjustments as a direct consequence of persistent excessive use (Langone 27)". This meant that an alcoholic could now get help in a hospital, just as a person with a real disease such as diabetes or leukemia would . Moreover, the use of the words "loss of control" make it seem as though the alcoholic's free will has just been ripped away from him. On the contrary, there is no evidence that the will of the drinker has been overpowered. Besides labeling alcoholism as a disease, the AMA has also done a huge error in stating that alcoholism causes people to lose control over the consumption of alcohol. This will only negate the fact that the amount of alcohol consumed and if it is consumed at all is completely up to the drinker, not an inevitable disease that overpowers your free will. The belief that alcohol controls us rather than we control alcohol is obscene. It rejects the very idea of humanity- that we are not simply animals controlled by our instincts and impulses (Wilbanks 40).

The notion that alcoholism is genetic or hereditary is also based partly on an article by Donald Goodwin. In the article it states that about 18% of the children of alcoholics become alcoholics themselves. This also indicates that 82% of the children of alcoholics do not become alcoholics, therefore indicating that it is very likely that alcoholism indeed is not hereditary (Claypool 23). And could it be possible that those children who did become alcoholics did not do so because they inherited it, but they actually learned it from their parents? I believe this is very probable. We learn everything form our parents; how to dress, how to act, how to express ourselves, why not how to drink? Researchers also investigate possible genetic components of alcoholism by studying populations and families as well as genetic, biochemical, and neurobehavioral markers and characteristics. But these studies have not yet proven that alcoholism is based solely on genetic factors. The acclaimed anti-disease model revolutionist, Herbert Fingarette, quotes:"There was no genetic or other biological explanation for why a person drinks too much either on a particular occasion or habitually, why a...

  • Goodwin M.D., Donald W. Alcoholism: The Facts. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.

  • Langone, John
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