March 20, 2010

Brain excuse

More progress, with logic slowly coming around to the obvious. Science, medicine and sociology will be prevent rapid catch up, such is the addiction to the medicalisation / disease model of every known human emotion, behavior or tick.

".. addiction is not a brain state, it is a behavior. As philosopher Daniel Shapiro of West Virginia University puts it, “You can examine pictures of brains all day, but you’d never call anyone an addict unless he acted like one.”

... promoting the idea of addiction as a brain disease would rehabilitate the addict’s public image from that of a criminal who deserves punishment into a sympathetic figure who deserves treatment. Good intentions aside, is the “brain disease” of addiction really beyond the control of the addict in the same that way that the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or multiple sclerosis are beyond the control of the afflicted?

... The mechanical “brain disease” rhetoric is a symptom of the growing tendency to privilege neuroscientific explanations as the most authentic way of understanding human behavior."

A surprisingly old and not very useful paradigm. Sophisticated equipment has, ironically, taken us backwards.

Addiction: A Disorder of Choice


  1. Anonymous1:05 PM

    promoting the idea of addiction as a brain disease would rehabilitate the addict’s public image from that of a criminal who deserves punishment into a sympathetic figure who deserves treatment.

    One might ask why does an "addict" deserve punishment. Do we punish alcoholics for their drinking? Smokers for their smoking? No, providing they do so within the law.

    Having said that addiction is not a disease in itself but may be a sympton of an underlying disease or condition.

    Many Vietnam vets were addicted to high grade herion while at war but didn't miss it when they returned home. The underlying cause (war)of their addiction (an escape) had been removed - however since the Vietnam war has ended more vets have died from suicide than were killed in the war. For many the underlying cause became an indelible never ending nightmare - many sought drugs of all types to escape this nightmare, many were treated as criminals, rather than very sick (in the head) human beings.

    Uncle Sam is a destroyer of young souls.

    For most of us ordinary souls addiction is a matter of the mind. If one is addicted and wants not to be addicted, then one changes one's mind - this can be easier said than done but at the end of the day it's a matter of self control - which I have absolutely none of - hic.


  2. Self-medicating is mentioned, and I don't think anyone would dispute that as a behavioral motivator Justin, but it's still a choice, still just a behavior. Otherwise everyone would want a bit of heroin or cocaine at least every now and again, to get through particular circumstances in life.

    I don't agree at all that alcoholics and smokers aren't punished. Both are punished socially, financially and politically.

    On the other hand, heroin, which is not physically addictive, has seen an entire industry created to bathe heroin users in a shroud of sympathy and victim-hood. Helpless, tortured, beyond self-control. 'The drug made me do it and I do it because of the drug'. Even withdrawal is presented as an extraordinary and painful burden, on par with the worst of diseases. And that's not true either. Withdrawal is pretty simple: a few days.

    The book makes that very point about heroin use and war vets Justin - how easy it was for them to simply stop. They weren't allowed on a plane home if they had drugs in their system. Guess what? Brief treatment was very successful, and pretty much zero relapse once home. That's the starting point for the book's key arguments.

    This all gels with a book from a few years ago, which pretty much concluded that heroin addicts themselves admit that they could give it up any time. They're enabled by an industry that offers them so much sympathy that they know they don't have to give up, they can just play the system.

    The socio-psycho industry needs them!

    Compare that to cocaine addicts, or crystal meth, neither of which have the same sympathetic image & industry to protect them from external criticism and condemnation.