Addiction in America: Addiction is a Choice? Christian Network Journal, June 2005
Why Addiction is a Choice
by Jeffrey A. Schaler
Christian Networks Journal
June 5, 2005
Anyone listening to the incessant propaganda for what is called "the disease model" of addiction might suppose that all experts on addiction agree with it. But this is far from the truth. People who have spent a lifetime studying addiction are divided in their opinions. I am one of many psychologists who maintain that addiction is not a disease but a choice.
Some people suppose they can show that addiction is a disease by pointing out that it is a serious problem, that people can destroy or impoverish their lives by excessive consumption
of some chemical substance or by an obsessive preoccupation with some pastime like gambling or sex. I do not dispute that some forms of addiction constitute a serious problem. What I do dispute is the assumption that serious problems are always necessarily medical in nature. Serious problems may be social, or moral, or existential.
People can make unwise choices. People can make self-destructive choices. People can make evil choices, though in our society there is not always agreement about which choices are evil, which are good, and which are morally neutral. It's also true that people can make sensible, constructive, and heroic choices. If we are going to claim that people are not responsible for their bad choices, how can we claim that they are responsible for their good choices? If we are not to blame people for their harmful actions, then how are we to praise them for their fine or noble action?
If someone has made an unfortunate choice, they may be in need of help. My judgment that addiction is a choice is not an excuse to be uncaring. I do not want to be hard on people who are suffering from the difficulties of life. But I believe we do not help people most effectively by classifying their behavior as symptoms of some mysterious and entirely mythical illness. We can help people by offering them advice, or perhaps by enabling them to improve their circumstances so that they are better able to cope, and thus do not feel impelled to take refuge in particular chemical substances.
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