Peter Hitchens Claims’ That Addiction Is Not A Disease
Author and journalist Peter Hitchens wants the world to believe that having an addiction is more a lack of will power and criminal activity over anything else. Hitchens alongside Matthew Perry and Baroness Meacher, who chairs the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform discussed drug courts and the complexity of addiction on BBC’s Newsnight. During the discussion, Hitchens rejected any statements made about alcoholism (or other addictions) being a physical allergy or mental obsession. He asked for proof on what makes addictions anything more than just ones’ own choice to abuse drugs and break the law. Although Mr. Perry seemed more baffled at Hitchens outrageous claims it was Baroness Meacher who was the voice of reason and provided the statistics and medical proof for why addiction is a disease.
Although Mr. Perry didn’t back up his claims as eloquently as he could’ve that doesn’t mean that Mr. Hitchens’ had validity. According to the American Society of Addiction:
“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, and craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.”
I speculate that the reasons why people like Hitchens refuse to acknowledge addiction as a disease is because of the lack personal experience, “field” work, direct contact with addicts and personal beliefs that add up to major ignorance on their part. The social and medical engineering of the word “disease” also makes it hard for people to label addiction and other environmentally influenced illnesses as diseases. If a persons’ actions in anyway fuel the problem in question then it can’t possible be a disease, right? So other chronic illnesses like diabetes are not illnesses right? The perception of what a disease is confuses people. So, let’s take H.I.V patients into consideration – if a person willingly has sex with someone and contracts H.I.V do they not have a disease because they chose to have unprotected sex? How about a child born to a crack or meth addict? Is that child not genetically and environmentally exposed to addiction? How about a soldier who suffers severe trauma during war and uses mood and mind altering substances to cope? The biological reactions that cause that first hit and/or drink to happen go way beyond will power and the desire to want or not want to do drugs. Addiction is not simple and the answers are not as black and white as Hitchens is suggesting they are with his judgmental views on the matter.