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Alcoholism Is Not a Disease (From Alcoholism, P 34-44, 1994, Carol Wekesser, ed. -- See NCJ-160630)

NCJ Number
J A Schaler
Date Published
11 pages
Alcoholism and other types of addictions are not diseases, but rather behaviors in which people choose to engage.
Etiological paradigms for understanding drug use can be presented in three models: the disease model, the free-will model, and the moralistic model. In the disease or medical model, addicts are considered to have physiological differences from normal people, differences based in a genetic source or created through the chemical effects of drugs. Instead of focusing on the interaction between the self and the environment, advocates of the disease model view the interaction between physiology and the chemicals in drugs as both the disease and the executor of behavior and experience. In the free-will model, drug use is viewed as a means of coping with environmental experience, a behavioral choice, and a function of psychological and environmental factors combined. In the moralistic model, addiction is considered to be the result of low moral standards, bad character, and weak will. Treatment consists of punishment for drug-using behavior. This paper supports the free-will model of addiction. The flaw in the disease model is that it claims addiction is a disease beyond volitional control except when it comes to treatment failure, wherein "resistance" comes into play. Treatment is not consistent under this model because there is no medicine and there is no disease. Research suggests that drug addiction is far from a disease. As long as drug addiction can be blamed on a mythical disease, the real reasons why people use drugs -- those related to socioeconomic, existential, and psychological conditions, including low self-esteem, self-worth, and self-efficacy -- can be ignored.


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