Addiction and Choice


The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence objects to John Stossel's recent ABC News special about addiction, calling it "woefully one-sided, misleading, and factually incorrect." The NCADD (whose press release does not seem to be available online) is especially perturbed that Stossel dared to question the assertion that alcoholism is a disease. After all, "it has been years since the American Medical Association first proclaimed alcoholism to be a 'complex disease' in their landmark statement of 1967." Get with it, Stossel!

Although the issue really was settled back in 1967, biological reductionists continue to look for evidence that "addiction is a brain disease," as Alan Leshner, former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, put it. According to the NCADD, "NIDA found that there may be a core biochemical change that takes place in any addiction and has to do with the neurotransmitter dopamine and the nucleus accumbens."

Or there may not be. And if there is, how would it in any way disprove the fact that so many addicts manage to moderate or give up their habits, showing that they are ultimately in control of their behavior?

It becomes clear that even the folks at the NCADD do not believe addiction is a physical compulsion, akin to an epileptic fit, that addicts are powerless to resist. "Clearly," they say, "there is a volitional component to alcoholism and drug addiction." They just don't think anyone should talk about it.