April 21st, 2003



There's an interesting special on the tv about addiction - "Help me! I can't help myself." It's really interesting.

The most interesting thing about the special is that (like many John Stossel reports) it attacks the current popular opinion, namely that addiction is a disease that people can't control. It's a choice. And even more interestingly, some of the scientists and doctors on the show say that there's no such thing as addiction at all. When we are "addicted", they say, it just means that we're choosing to continue to use the so-called addicting substance, or continuing to practice the addicting behavior.

They may have a real point there. As one doctor said, you can choose to stop doing drugs, to stop smoking, to stop drinking, to stop overeating. It might be difficult, and it might be unpleasant, but you can choose that path. When you have cancer, you can't choose to stop having cancer.

Of course, if addiction isn't a disease - if it is, in fact, a choice - then it means people aren't suffering from a disease, they're running from responsibility by blaming it on something else. Admitting that is the hard part. Once you've admitted that it's not a disease, but a choice, you can choose to stop - and, actually, they said you probably will.

They had a bunch of interesting studies that argue in favor of the choice-not-disease argument. In one, they gave cocaine to monkeys who were living together. The alpha male didn't take any drugs after one or two shots. The one on the bottom of the totem pole took it like crazy, numbing himself to the world. Rats in cages and rats in a pleasant environment were both given easy access to morphine. The ones in the cage took an average of 8 times as much morphine as the ones in the nice environment.

Of course, it doesn't take into account everything - maybe the same quality that made the monkey dominant also made the drug less potent, for instance. Or something else, I dunno.

It's an interesting idea, though, and the more I think about it and watch the show, the more sense it makes. Then again, I've never really been addicted to anything, so maybe I just don't understand it. Or maybe I've just always made the right choice. Hmmm.
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