ADVISORY: This entry deals with a controversial and sensitive topic in a blunt and direct fashion. It expresses my views, opinions, thoughts, feelings and knowledge about the subject matter. Many readers may have alternate views and I respect their right to do so. It is a long and winding entry and might be judged to be only tangentially related to the usual subject matter covered here.
As a grossly over-educated fellow who happens to be ignorant about a few things – like nuclear physics and most aspects of rocket-engine design – I tend to be fairly tolerant of nice folks who simply do not know the facts of a circumstance and proceed to make incorrect judgments in good faith. But, such tolerance vanishes in the face of the mean-spirited ignorance of the “disease chauvinists.”
The bogus doctrine of disease chauvinism dictates that, for example, heart ailments and cancer are legitimate diseases, but that persons who contract the disease of “addiction” do so by their own “freewill choice.” This ignorance-based maxim is still extremely widespread. Because it is anti-science, illogical, and leads to death and misery it must not be tolerated by a civilized society.
The “disease or choice” debate is being kept alive by a few greedy insurance cabals, the Prison Industrial Complex, governments that seek to divide their subjects, and the remunerated and corrupted quacks that serve each of those entities. These evil chauvinists claim self-serving and archaic opinions to be “facts;” they get away with it because most folks are ignorant of modern science and will buy any view that the loudest and most authoritative sounding voice publicly pronounces.
A Fairness Disclaimer:
There are certainly some well-meaning experts who have a good-faith belief that the “choice” label is both a deterrent to “first use/abuse” and an “aid to recovery.” They are totally wrong, but the harm they cause, though via intentional acts, is not willfully brought nor evil-based. These good folks simply refuse to accept the very science that they claim to believe rules the universe. How many more lives will be destroyed before these folks “get it,” and how will history view their obstinate ignorance? We should soon know.
Broadly-accepted science defines “disease” as follows:
Any deviation from or interruption of the normal structure or function of any body part, organ, or system that is manifested by a characteristic set of symptoms and signs and whose etiology, pathology, and prognosis may be known or unknown.
General Elements – Addiction: A Lifelong Terminal Disease
It produces diagnosable symptoms.
It is chronic and does not time expire.
It is relapse common.
It is progressive, until death occurs.
It is treatable by known medical science.
Using that definition and those elements, even the least swift folks among us should be able to reach an appropriate verdict in the case of Disease v. Choice. Yet, the controversy lives, spreads, and continues to render suffering and death everyday.
We all know that just shy of about 10% of cigarette-smokers will contract lung cancer, but we don’t hate them if cancer strikes; we treat them. We all know that many instances of coronary-artery disease are delivered to folks who eat too much fat and rotting dead-animal flesh, but we don’t hate them when they collapse with a heart attack; we treat them. We treat the skin cancers caused by avoidable sunshine and we never hate the sunbathers. We all know that poor dietary habits are contributory causes of diabetes, obesity, and a myriad of other diseases; but when such ailments strike, we deal the treatment card, not the hate card.
Though each of the patients above described made a “free choice” to indulge in the initial behavior and conduct that, in part, led to their afflictions, they all get a free-pass on the blame-game board.
Yet, the collective humanity of many folks – even their common decency – is prone to vanish in the face of a human bearing the socially unacceptable disease of addiction. The addict is viewed as subhuman and criminal and trash that deserves whatever happens to it; after all, it chose to sicken itself. It knew what would happen, but because it is an immoral and bad creature it chose to engage in foul conduct. If it was of decent moral character and not a degenerate – and had just a little bit of willpower – it would not be sick; it got what it deserved.
There are three primary reasons for the double-standards maintained by the rank-and-file disease chauvinists.
1. Some cling to the peasantine cloak of “minimal superiority” awarded to their ancestors by every despotic ruler for the last 3,000 years. That garment was figurative and allowed that while the peasants themselves were scarcely human, they were “more human” than those among them who overindulged in the spirits of the grape and the grain and brought “disorder” to the system of things. The need to feel superior to something is a base but powerful force that resides within most humans; it can uneasily be overcome, but is ever so easy for tyrants to manipulate and exploit.
2. Some fear that their share of a socialist government’s – or a capitalist insurance company’s – healthcare benefits will be reduced, if addicts are treated as the disease burdened persons that they actually are. The irony of such ignorance is fun: It costs a government much more to criminalize addiction than it would cost to medically treat it. And, of course, the insurance companies and private-prison operators are thrilled to have the ignorant cheerleaders in their corner, too.
3. Some merely subscribe to the politically and financially motivated opinions espoused by their own physicians simplistic nonsense that addiction is a “disabling disorder, but not actually a disease, as such.” Thankfully, the ranks of such quackery dispensers are thinning under the reality pressures of modern science.
Very simply put, just what does this so called “modern science” say?
Substance addiction is a disease; caused by a combination of genetic predisposition – and/or a cell-division related anomaly – and irreversible alterations in brain physiology and chemistry triggered by and/or resulting from the use/abuse of coping-mechanism substitutes like alcohol and other drugs.
It turns out that your government was right when it proclaimed that an egg frying in a pan was kinda like “your brain on dope.” Once those “alterations” have occurred, the addict is no longer acting as a freewill chooser; no amount of “moral character and will-power” is capable of “curing” the disease.
Once the disease takes hold, only medical/pharmacological treatment – combined with “talk it out” psychiatric care – can save the patient from the chronic and terminal disease of addiction.
I well realize how much modern humans hate to read “dry material.” Even so, I must suggest that you take a serious read of the material at the following links.
This info will reinforce the fact-based beliefs held by the anti-chauvinists. If it does not change the minds of the chauvinists, it should at least let them know for sure that they are on the wrong side of both science and, ultimately, history’s harsh judgment.
The links are not in any particular order. Some of the information is presented in an elementary manner; some is moderately high-end academic and clinical material. You can start reading anywhere and follow your curiosity.
This one is included not because it is dispositive to the argument, but because it so charitably treats the bogus arguments of those who are so completely wrong. The mere use of the word “theory” always reveals upon which side its users’ bread is buttered.
This one is included for folks who are particularly interested in the genetic factors inherent to virtually all diseases.
Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the United States National Institute on Drug Abuse, explains:
Addiction Is A Disease, Not A Character Defect.
In less than 20 years, all doubt will be removed and the manufactured controversy will be quelled. In the meantime, countless more lives and families will be destroyed by an ignorance constructed and maintained to serve the corrupt interests of a few evil corporations and vile governments.
This too lengthy screed was spawned by a “spirited” discussion that occurred on facebook a few days ago. Some of the militant chauvinists were lamenting that any financial resources would be “wasted” on treating addicted persons when people with “real diseases” allegedly received short shrift. Since facebook is a poor place to pose an extended argument, I decided to make it here; lucky you.
My Own Personal Experiences and Conclusions
It is no secret that my views on addiction are both radical and controversial. Those views were all formed during many years of direct, personal and firsthand experience in dealing with affected persons; both addicts and those closest to them.
So, what are my solutions?
1. Promote United Nations advisory action to:
A: Encourage all countries to proffer that addiction is a disease mandated to be clinically treated, with the respective governments to be “last resort providers” of such treatment.
B: Encourage all countries to provide litigation venues within which family members and/or close associates may seek and receive – by judicial order – full and complete conservator/guardian status over addicted persons who refuse to be medically treated for their disease.
In the USA, many jurisdictions already provide for such process, but it is expensive, complex, and requires sophisticated legal representation for the petitioners. Well-funded respondents can often prevail in such proceedings; many such “successful” litigants subsequently die of their disease. The processes should be uniformly simplified, the burden of proof should be lessened, and the sundry governments should be more easily able to insert themselves into litigation on behalf of the good-faith petitioners.
Folks who are uncomfortable with even slight UN involvement in this issue should be aware that the UN is in the mix of many international “social issues.” For example, the body even contemplates “worldwide firearm regulations.” Addiction destroys many more people than do privately-owned firearms.
2. Educational efforts must be made to eliminate the false notion that “you cannot help an addict that is not ready to be helped.” That pop-psych myth has probably killed more addicts than have the disease chauvinists. Trust me when I tell you that once the handcuffs are on the recalcitrant addict and he is involuntarily dispatched to a locked-down, medical-treatment center, he will, eventually, and sooner rather than later, be “ready to be helped.”
Family members contemplating involvement in “militant intervention” efforts must disabuse themselves of the fear that their addict will “hate them forever.” You are literally engaged in a life-and-death struggle; your addict may indeed hate you for a time, but you will have saved his life.
3. Legislation must be sought to hold parents criminally liable for negligently allowing their children to engage in drug use. Specifically, marijuana use must be targeted; this is not a “gateway drug” issue; it is a life-ruination issue. The naturally acquired coping skills that “normal” kids build are severely inhibited/blocked when a young teen uses weed. The absence of those skills in young adults is a primary cause of the conduct that allows addiction to occur.
Folks who fear the concept of such parental liability should note that the mere “negligent storage” of a firearm is now a criminal offense in many USA jurisdictions. Dope is far more likely to end the future of your child than is a carelessly stored firearm.
4. Support charitable efforts that help fund the medical treatment of addicted persons, who have been forgotten by a busy and self-absorbed world.
5. Elect public officials who oppose deadly disease chauvinism. You may have to explain the details to your politicians to get them on board, but do not support any pol that does not fully understand and embrace your position
6. FIGHT BACK against the social stigmatization that inhibits addiction sufferers from seeking timely treatment for their disease. Such stigma has destroyed countless lives and it must be halted. Stigma attachment is tantamount to a “hate crime” being committed against a person for reason of disease or disability; it is illegal in some circumstances/jurisdictions and should be universally unlawful.
When I was very young, there was an ignorance-based stigma attached to cancer; to some relatively minor degree, that stigma remains intact. If you doubt that fact, look at this link:
We now know the degree of shame and embarrassment that AJW suffered in her losing war against the disease that plagued her unto death. The “pride” she disclaimed in song, remained with her always and she felt “ashamed” that she was sick. How heart wrenching is that? Her illness may well have had a different outcome, if the “stigma” of it had not been part of the process of dehumanization that addiction sufferers must endure.
As we all know, addiction is no respecter of social status or wealth; it attacks the meek/powerful/rich/poor with equally devastating results. At least the poor can play out their painful drama in private; not so for the celebrated and the pap-stalked.
There is a particularly disgusting video on youtube that almost perfectly illustrates the evil that disease chauvinism delivers to the innocent. Some time ago, when I first viewed the video, it sickened me and I wanted to scold those responsible for it. Now, while watching it further breaks my heart and makes me cry, it also harshly hardens my resolve to aggressively fight back against the dehumanizers, the stigmatizers, and the chauvinists.
The video shows a desperately ill and wounded human – known to us as Amy Jade Winehouse – in a death-precursor predicament. AJW is shown unconscious and sprawled immodestly on an outdoor bench; she is alone, vulnerable and in trouble.
If a decent person saw a fellow human thusly downed, he would render/summon immediate aid. Here, the disease-chauvinism maxim dictated that the stalker simply push the start-button on a video camera and record the scene as numerous passersby gave a glance at the dehumanized curiosity and kept on walking.
When Benito Aquino was assassinated, his wife demanded an open casket funeral. “Let them see what they have done,” she told her countrymen. When JFK was murdered, his wife refused to remove her blood-soaked dress for many hours after the killing. “Let them see what they have done,” she told the world.
To the disease chauvinists, I wanted to say, “Look what your bigotry and ignorance did and contemplate the final outcome that your hatred helped to render.” I wanted to say that and more as I posted the scandalous video for all to see, but I could not bring myself to promote a horrid and painful public spectacle just to further an academic point. People who love Amy have likely seen enough of that nasty video, and the deranged people who promote the hatred of the sick would only relish viewing it again.
Now, if you can, imagine that the sick child on that bench is your friend, your relative, someone you love. What would you “hope” that any observer would do upon seeing the described circumstance?
Each day that the disease chauvinists’ position is allowed too prevail, the chance that your hoped for remedy would be delivered is substantially reduced. Each day that the dehumanization dogma that is the chauvinists’ stock-in-trade is allowed to exist, your prayers for the health of your children are at risk of going unanswered. Each day that the hateful stigma goes unchallenged, we are all less safe and secure in a world that is capable of delivering the kind of medical miracles that the chauvinists would deprive us of.
Please FIGHT BACK against the ignorance that diminishes our humanity. And, please remember that while the conduct of the disease chauvinists is hateful and deplorable, we must struggle not to hate them. Haters risk becoming that which they hate, and we must never allow that to happen to us.