Is Addiction a Cultural Category or a Biological Reality?
The concept of addiction has evolved significantly at the turn of the century. From alcoholism or drunkenness that was regarded as a brain stimulant, “drug addiction” has become one of the most combated problems in the society. Perceived as a prevalent disease in the community, physicians and scholars were encouraged to study addiction’s position and scope.
The history of addiction plays an important role in identifying whether it can be considered either as a cultural category or a biological reality. Accordingly, the changing interpretation of addiction with each turn of the century serves as a light towards ...view middle of the document...
According to Levine (1978), the negative association of addiction began in the late 18th century and early 19th century when Americans reported for the first time that they were addicted to alcohol. With the growing number of individuals admitting to their irresistibility to the effect of liquor to their system, temperance organizations were created in the society’s quest to solve this condition. Theories on addiction were developed and associated habitual drunkenness into a disease. From alcoholism then, addiction was eventually extended to other substances that produced the same overwhelming and irresistible desire for such substances. (Room, 2003) Opiate was the most commonly associated substance with addiction. (Krivanek, 2000) It was during this period that addiction became popular through the temperance movements trying to solve the problem. (Room, 2003)
It was also during this century when addiction was first seen as a disease. Physicians began their own research and looked for behaviour or symptoms beyond the control of the will. (Levine, 1978) Benjamin Rush, who was considered as the founder of temperance movement, formulated a theory or a model that proposed addiction as a disease. According to Rush, addiction is a ‘disease of the will’ – a disease that leaves one powerless of fighting against himself of the overwhelming feelings that alcohol or any substance gives (Reinarman, 2005) – such that the only cure is its abstinence. (Krivanek, 2000)
Symptoms of the said disease of the century were laid. Checklists were popularized such that one would be able to identify one who carries the disease of the will. But how reliable are these symptoms are when identified? This draws debate whether identifying these symptoms are sufficient enough to be measured especially for individuals experiencing severe conditions of addiction. (Eiser, 1997)
Moreover, this addiction-as-disease concept was also highly contradicted by Peele (1999) such that he sees addiction as an experience that people can get caught up in but that still expresses their values, skills at living, and personal resolve – or lack of it. The label addiction does not obviate either the meaning of the addictive involvement within people’s lives, or their responsibility for their misbehaviour or for their choices in continuing the addiction.
Peele (1999) believes that people are still capable of controlling themselves against addiction. According to him, people can not be considered as victims of addiction since they are active agents in any kind of drug abuse. He contested the following vies on alcoholism that is associated to addiction:
(1) the addiction exists independently of the rest of a person’s life and drives all of his or her choices;
(2) it is progressive and irreversible, so that the addiction inevitably worsens unless the person seeks medical treatment or joins an AA-type support group;
(3) addiction means the person is...