Addiction is an illness…er, isn’t it?

No, says Theodore Dalrymple, in the Spectator. It’s a choice, Dalrymple says. He offers some impressive proof for that claim:

Mao Tse-tung was by far the greatest therapist of drug addiction in world history. He threatened to execute opium addicts if they didn’t give up. Threats to murder were about the only utterances of Mao’s that could be believed, and 20 million addicts duly gave up.

I hope you don’t think that I am advocating Mao’s methods, but it does seem to me that his success tells us something very important about addiction. Mao didn’t say, nor would it have made sense for him to say, I will execute anyone who suffers from hypothyroidism, say, or rheumatoid arthritis; and therefore there must be a category difference between illness and addiction.

The notion of addiction as illness cannot possibly explain why, in the 1950s, there were at most a couple of hundred heroin addicts in this country, and why now there are perhaps 250,000 of them, 150,000 of them injecting. The National Institute on Drug Abuse in the United States propagated the idea that addiction was a disease — a chronic, relapsing brain disease, which is in fact chronic and relapsing in precisely the way that the Holy Roman Empire was holy, Roman and an empire. The Institute’s director at the time, Bob Schuster, did not believe that it was, in fact knew that it wasn’t. However, he was, in his own words, ‘happy for it to be conceptualised that way… for selling it to Congress’, that is to say to obtain more funds for research. This was because Congress would provide funds for research into a bona fide illness but not for a problem that was obviously more psychological, economic, social and in a broad sense spiritual in nature.

Always look to the grants economy when you wonder why about something. Heroin addiction may be easier to break that government money addiction.  There’s sort of modified version of the Babtists and Bootleggers phenomenon between drug addicts and government funded addiction “illness” researchers.

Read the whole thing.