DISCUSS: Is drug addiction a disease?

Peaches-GeldofTo judge another person’s decision is easy if you have never been in their place. A few days ago I read an article in the Herald Sun about the death of Peaches Geldof, written by Tom Elliot, who firmly believes that Geldof’s ongoing addiction to heroin was a choice.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe the first encounter with anything is a choice (if the person is informed and in control). If at this very moment someone appeared and offered me drugs, I would say no – because I know the ill-effects and dangers of taking them. If I said yes, it would be a conscious decision which I would be prepared to take the blame for. Unfortunately, it’s not always as easy as simply saying yes or no. In his article, Elliot says drug addiction “is not a disease from which personal responsibility can be conveniently removed” and I agree. If a person takes a drug for the first time, whilst aware of the risks, they should be blamed. It is a stupid decision to make. However, drug addiction is not the black and white issue Elliot believes it be, no matter how much I wish this were the case.

Although drug use may begin with a choice, addiction is not a series of conscious decisions. It causes a person’s brain to go on auto-pilot, making them feel like they need (not want) to take drugs. The blur between needing and wanting prevents a person from recognising that there is a problem, because a need is something you must have in order to survive. It is extremely difficult for a person addicted to drugs to regain self-control and the power to make their own decisions when their judgement is so clouded. For Elliot to get on his high horse and say “stupidity is not a disease” is ridiculous. We would not be experiencing such a drug epidemic if addiction was an easily fixed problem, solved simply by having the power to say no. It is not easy for a person who is addicted to simply say no and stop taking drugs, no matter the consequences for themselves or their loved ones. They must find their remaining self-control and consciously decide they want to quit. It requires time, effort, pain, a good support system and multiple attempts.

Elliot even goes as far as to compare drug addiction to Forgotten Baby Syndrome (FBS). How could a new mother assume she had taken her baby daughter out of the car, and not notice she was missing for two hours on a 30 degree day? The mother was fully aware and not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The judge ruled she was not negligent in her daughters death and instead suffering from FBS. To compare the two is misguided, and quite frankly, ignorant on Elliot’s behalf. He may paint himself as the perfect example of a socially responsible adult, but Elliot cannot truly judge the difficulties of drug addiction, as he has never experienced them himself. I understand his trouble with accepting a mother (Peaches) who has seemingly overlooked the welfare of her children. I do believe Unknownthat hidden amongst the subconscious mind-control of drug addiction, a person has the ability to say no. However, the extent to which this power is hidden and weakened by addiction is another story. I have been guilty myself of thinking and wishing it was easy, but I know this is not the case. For Elliot to label ongoing drug addiction as a sequence of informed yet stupid decisions, suggests he has a very narrow-minded and ignorant view, one which overlooks medical and scientific evidence.

What do you think? Do you believe drug addiction is a disease or just as phoney as FBS? Is a person addicted to drugs in complete control and able to stop whenever they please? Read the article here and share your thoughts in the comment box below!

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5 thoughts on “DISCUSS: Is drug addiction a disease?

  1. He is right, It is no longer a debate in the medical field, psychology & psychiatric field, it all of the scientific fields but for someone who has been living through it….it doesn’t matter what “they” say or what “they” debate. It is not a choice, it cannot be fought with sheer will power, it is a deadly disease like cancer, heart disease or diabetes and has to be treated on a daily basis. Every day I wake up with a choice, yes, yes I do. I wake up and decide that I want to live. In order to do that I have to open up my recovery work, my daily meditations and say my morning rituals to my Goddess and God to protect me and support me and work with and through me to fight and survive another day. In the begin, I sought help because I was starving to death, weak and delirious I almost fell into the methadone clinic at 85 lbs. NA, SOS, the clinic they all helped me, the showed me the way but I had to do the work for myself, not my kids or my family and friends, I had to want to live. So choice? Well, yes I have a choice each day to toss my work aside and become self absorbed and think “I got this” but in my experience when you don’t treat a disease, it gets worse. When you don’t treat a deadly disease, it kills you. Addiction is a very deep, complex disease to treat from a professional’s point of view because it has to be treated from so many different angles, trauma, genetics,,family history, social history, behavioral and so much more but bottom line, none of this matters, no matter how hard anyone tries to save the addict, none of it mean a darn thing until the addict is ready and willing to do whatever it takes to save his or her life.

      • Yes but that’s the tricky part and maybe a bit of confusion on my part of not explaining it correctly, It is a disease and not a chosen disease. Some argue the addict chose to pick up the drug. OK, maybe so but it made their feelings and problems melt away and the disease began or did it begin before that? Genetics are coming into play, it’s in the DNA and unavoidable. No matter how the addict became an addict until they get “sick and tired” and want to change they have to be the ones to decide to do what it takes to put it down and don’t pick it back up. It will be a lifelong struggle so the disease is not the choice the choice is do I want to live or die. Some are not strong enough and relapse. Sometimes something bad happens and they run back to what takes the pain away. It’s incredibly complex and difficult to treat and it’s a thousand times more difficult for the addict to fight the disease. It’s not as simple as someone with heart disease to choose to take their pills. So that’s the tricky part. It’s a disease we can’t see, there’s no magic pill, there’s no cure and they cannot stop on sheer will power alone. But they can treat the disease and they make the choice but they have to make it everyday and work hard to continue to recover and it’s a life long battle and a disease they’ll have the rest of their lives.

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