the addiction myth

One of the more all-pervasive myths of modern society is addiction. You can not only get addicted to cigarettes, booze and drugs but also to gambling, sex and the internet. 
The only problem with all this is that there’s no such thing as addiction. We’re not dealing with addictions, we’re dealing with moral choices. We live in a world in which the idea of moral choices is not very popular. Not only is it not PC, it also makes life seem like hard work. If bad things happen to us not because we’re addicted but because we make poor choices then that means we have to take responsibility for our own lives. It’s so much easier to  believe that addiction is a disease, or that some people are born with addictive personalities. 
If we’re sick or we were just born that way then it’s up to the government to do something about it. It’s a problem that requires funding. It requires an army of doctors and nurses and counsellors and social workers.
The truth is that an alcoholic is someone who chooses to drink more than he should. A problem gambler is someone who refuses to face up to reality and to adult responsibilities. A heroin addict is someone who chooses to use heroin. A sexual pervert is someone who chooses to indulge in perverted sex. These are all moral choices. 
Of course the society in which a person lives can make things easier or more difficult by either encouraging good moral choices or bad moral choices. When Christianity was still a force in the western world it encouraged good moral choices. When parents still knew how to raise kids properly they taught kids that moral choices were part and parcel of life.
If we have much bigger problems today with drugs, alcoholism, homosexuality and other self-destructive (and socially destructive) behaviours that’s a reflection of the decline of our society but moral choices still come down to individual choices. You can choose not to drink or take drugs or indulge in homosexual behaviour. To pretend that these things are illnesses or that some people are “born that way” is to delude ourselves. It also encourages foolish people to continue destroying themselves.
For a thorough demolition of the heroin addiction myth see Theodore Dalrymple’s Junk Medicine which I reviewed here quite a while back.

Theodore Dalrymple’s Junk Medicine

In Junk Medicine Theodore Dalrymple argues that everything we know about heroin addiction is wrong. Or at least, everything that is taken for granted about this subject is wrong.

Dalrymple spent many years as a doctor in both an inner-city hospital and a prison in a major British city so he’s had ample opportunity to see the problem at first hand.

The fact that addicts tell outrageous lies will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever actually met an addict, but far more shocking is the fact that the same lies are not only believed but actively propagated by doctors, nurse, therapists and counsellors working in the field of addiction.

The truth is that physical addiction is a trivial matter. Withdrawal from heroin is infinitely less dangerous than withdrawal from alcohol. Addiction is not something that just happens to people. You have to work hard to become a heroin addict. Addiction is no accident. It’s a choice.

Dalrymple also explodes the myth that addiction forces people into crime. He argues that the reality is quite the reverse. People start off by becoming involved in criminal subcultures and then become addicts.

Addiction is not merely a choice, it’s an attractive choice. It absolves the addict of all adult responsibilities.

Treatment methods such as the use of methadone are entirely useless. In fact any kind of treatment that starts from the proposition that addiction is a medical problem is bound to fail. Dalrymple’s prescription is simple – we should close down all drug treatment clinics. The only purpose they serve is to provide employment for doctors, nurse, therapists and counsellors. A bloated taxpayer-funded bureaucracy has come into being that exists only to perpetuate itself.

Dalrymple also takes aim at the drug-fueled literary tradition that has given opiate addiction a false glamour. He suggests that poets such as Coleridge and Baudelaire might well have produced a good deal more worthwhile work had their brains not been addled by drugs. His reserves his especial venom for William S. Burroughs, and rightly so.

Dalrymple is always provocative but given the fact that the growth of the addiction treatment industry has coincided with a spectacular growth in the number of heroin addicts one has to admit that he has a point.

Manufacturing Victims by Tana Dineen

Manufacturing Victims details the horrifying true story of the psychology industry, of the ways it not only makes individuals into victims but makes victims of all of us one way or another. Masquerading as science this industry operates on a basis of lies and ethical practices that would make the Mafia blush.

Dr Tana Dineen is herself a psychologist and lifts the lid on the racket from an insider’s perspective.

Dineen targets psychiatrists as well as the other assorted therapists that infest our society. She warns that one of the biggest dangers comes from therapists whose training is so narrow they can only ever diagnose one problem because they have no broad training whatsoever.