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March 28, 2008

What is Addiction?

Addiction is one of the more abused concepts in modern discourse; just what does the A word refer to? A disease? A state of mind? Both? Neither? Although it's clear from the diversity of that list that whatever I write here won't be definitive; the importance of the word to the drug war requires that I make some effort to both define and discuss it .

Right off the bat, I consider addiction to be a word best avoided because of the degree to which it has been abused by the drug war, but I also recognize that the very frequency of such abuse requires that it be dealt with; if for no other reason than to understand what it isn't.

Addiction is not a disease, despite rulings of the US Supreme Court, assertions of ex-NIDA Director Alan Leshner, or (even) the existence of ASAM to the contrary.

Addiction, in the broadest sense, is best thought of as repetitive behavior, whether working, exercise, reading, sex, or food. Even when it involves consumption of a "drug," and thus becomes "drug addiction," I still favor a restrictive use: "substance addiction," and then only when the substance in question has been shown to be  unsafe for chronic consumption.  To understand why I'm so finicky: the feds make a big thing of implying that smoking marijuana and smoking tobacco are equally dangerous to one's health. I know they are not and have considerable evidence to support my belief, whereas the feds have only their (usual) hot air.

Unfortunately, they have a lot more money in the form of the tax dollars they have been spending so lavishly to support drug prohibition and several
other terrible ideas at the top of the American national agenda.

Perhaps the most basic concept required for thinking about addiction is that however defined, it's repetitive; thus whatever it is must be tried at least once. A word even those who disagree about addiction's definition can agree on is referring to one's first experience with the behavior in question as initiation.

More on initiation as time permits...
Doctor Tom


Posted by tjeffo at March 28, 2008 06:39 PM