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"opening your grandmas legs is like opening a grilled cheese sandwitch" - Graeffsgirl

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  • Date Submitted: 05/04/2010 07:30 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 39.1 
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The United States (and the Western World generally) has suffered in the throes of a cultural delusion - the idea that addiction is a specific biological syndrome. The current administrations of the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) are both pursuing this delusion, ad infinitum (cf. Hyman, 1996; Leshner, 1997). Addiction is real, it can occur with any involvement in which people can become immersed, and it is identified by human experience, which means that individual and cultural outlooks are crucial to its appearance.
Based partly on my work (Peele, 1985/1998) indicating that addiction is not a specific invariant biological phenomenon, some sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists, and others involved in substance abuse research have deduced that addiction itself is not real. They make this assertion because people do not invariably become addicted to any given substance (e.g., heroin), even after repeated exposures to it; because people may feel and act addicted with (that is, are addicted to) powerful nonsubstance activities, such as gambling, eating, shopping, and sex; and because even those classifiable as addicts more often than not terminate their addictions, usually without treatment.
But addiction remains a powerful, useful, and evocative concept. People become, act, and feel addicted, and to say otherwise is to argue with incontrovertible phenomena and experience - what is it called when someone enters a worsening spiral of drinking or drug use that leads to self-destruction (as infrequent as this is)? Those who discard the idea of addiction, when confronted with some supposedly physiological indicator of addiction or some sad case of addiction that cannot be gainsaid, then scurry back to notions that sound like addiction but seem more scientifically based but are not - notably the concept of "physical dependence."
The addiction concept is a hoary one that has actually been both meaningfully and...


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