Disease Concept of Alcoholism - the Myth

Disease Concept of Alcoholism - the MythWe are not alone in our assertion that alcoholism and drug addictions are not diseases. Please take a few minutes to understand what research is now telling us about alcohol rehab, alcohol abuse, alcoholism rehab, abusive drinking, and drug use.

First it is important to understand that the disease theory is just that - a theory. Additionally, it is important to understand that this theory is only accepted as fact by the rehab, rehabilitation, and treatment industry here in the United States. The rest of the world considers the disease theory for alcoholism pure bunk. In his book Why We Should Reject The Disease Concept of Alcoholism, Herbert Fingarette, Ph.D., makes the following observations:

In the United States, but not in other countries such as Great Britain (Robertson and Heather, 1982), the standard answer is to call the behavior a disease - 'alcoholism' - whose key symptom is a pattern of uncontrollable drinking. This myth, now widely advertised and widely accepted, is neither helpfully compassionate nor scientifically valid. It promotes false beliefs and inappropriate attitudes, as well as harmful, wasteful, and ineffective social policies.

The myth is embodied in the following four scientifically baseless propositions:

1) Heavy problem drinkers show a single distinctive pattern of ever greater alcohol use leading to ever greater bodily, mental, and social deterioration.

2) The condition once it appears, persists involuntarily: the craving is irresistible and the drinking is uncontrollable once it has begun.

3) Medical expertise is needed to understand and relieve the condition (cure the disease) or at least ameliorate its symptoms.

4) Alcoholics are no more responsible legally or morally for their drinking and its consequences than epileptics are responsible for the consequences of their movements during seizures.

The idea that alcoholism is a disease has always been a political and moral notion with no scientific basis. It was first promoted in the United States around 1800 as a speculation based on erroneous physiological theory (Levine, 1978), and later became a theme of the temperance movement (Gusfield, 1963). It was revived in the 1930s by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), who derived their views from an amalgam of religious ideas, personal experiences and observations, and the unsubstantiated theories of a contemporary physician (Robinson, 1979).1

Another observation is offered by Jeffery Schaler, Ph.D. in June of 1995:

Extensive research supports the idea that addiction is a voluntary process, a behavior that is better explained by individual psychological and environmental factors, than physiology and the chemical properties of drugs." 2

In another article authored by Dr. Phil Stringer entitled Disease, Victimization, and Personal Responsibility he raises the question, "How many people who never decide (emphasis added) to drink would 'catch' the 'disease' of alcoholism?" The obvious answer is none. In the traditional meaning of the word "disease," a chosen behavior (i.e. drinking alcohol or taking drugs) does not define a disease in that one can just as reasonably choose not to drink or use drugs. The disease theory simply provides the person with a drug or alcohol problem an easy out from taking responsibility for themselves, their behavior, and the problems they cause others.

There are hundreds of researchers who have looked carefully at the alcoholism disease theory. Most have rejected the notion that alcoholism is a disease. The studies that have touted alcoholism as a disease are researchers who derive a living, in one way or another, from the treatment industry. These are hardly sources that can be trusted.

Finally, consider the paradoxical nature of the disease theory: the theory contends that once the disease is in place (diagnosed), the alcoholic has lost the power of choosing not to drink or the drug addict to not use drugs. But, how can that be true when millions of diagnosed alcoholics have stopped drinking and never return to problem drinking and drug addicts have stopped using drugs with no treatment whatsoever? If, indeed, they lost their power to choose to not use alcohol or other drugs, how did these millions of people with drug and alcohol problems stop drinking and/or drugging? Are we to believe that counselors and other professionals can make the choice for their patients because their patients have "lost their personal power of choice?" Or perhaps Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs provide some "magic" that gives members their choice back, but only "one day at a time." Or maybe we are to believe that there is some universal power (choice power) that is channeled only through licensed counselors and other would-be professionals.

The millions that at one time had a substance abuse problem and now do not, do not have one because they made a choice not to. You can too. The Freedom Model Program cannot make that choice for you - only you can do that. What the Freedom Model Program can do for you is help you formulate your plans for sobriety and a future filled with promise and the ability to finally move on.

Footnote 1: Extracted from: Why We Should Reject The Disease Concept of Alcoholism; Herbert Fingarette, Ph.D.. in: Engs, Ruth C. [editor]. Controversies in the Addiction Field. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall Hunt, 1990. Downloaded 24 February 2003.

Footnote 2: Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D., "Cult-Busting," The InterPsych Newsletter 2(5), June 1995. See also Alexander, B. K. (1990). The Empirical and Theoretical Bases for an Adaptive Model of Addiction. Journal of Drug Issues, 20, 37-65. See also Alexander, B. K. (1987) The Disease and Adaptive Models of Addiction: A Framework Evaluation. Journal of Drug Issues, 17, 47-66.

Permanent Recovery From Addiction - Alcohol drug abuse and alcoholism are not diseases. The Saint Jude Retreats are the alternative to conventional drug alcohol alcoholism rehab and treatment.


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