Alcoholism, Disease Or Lack Of Self-Control? Essay, Research Paper
Last year my Uncle was diagnosed with the disease known as alcoholism. He of course went through the whole 12-step program and he is currently a member AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). He has not had a drink since he got out of his 12-step program. This made me think of why alcoholism is considered a disease? Why is it not considered a lack of self-control of the substance of alcohol? Is it the fact that society is led to believe that addictions are a disease and there is always a self help program to go to? Or is it the lack of taking responsibility and facing the problem? So I decided to do some research on the so-called disease of alcoholism. So I went to the library. My first stop was the Internet. I found a lot of information on the topic of Alcoholism in the Another Empty Bottle website. An organization on the Internet for help with alcoholism. I found out that there are two main theories about alcoholism. One is the disease model and the other model is the social learning model. The disease model states that alcoholism is defined as a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environment factors influencing its development and manifestation. The disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by continuos or periodic: impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial. Yet there are wholes in the disease model. One Alcoholism isn t always progressive. Drinkers can often maintain the same level of drinking for years. Others drink and stop at will. While others struggle their whole lives with the disease. Two. Once an alcoholic isn t always true. Several treatment methods do not rely on total abstinence and are successful (Another Empty Bottle). The second model is the Social learning model. It states that problem drinking is, like all human behavior, learned. Drinking alcohol is a functional activity, which either produces a pleasant consequence or avoids an unpleasant one such as anxiety. Acting upon this basic psychophysiological effect are social and psychosocial factors such as cultural, peer group and family influences together with occupation, personality, subculture, price and availability. Yet there are also wholes in the social learning model. One. Alcoholism is influenced by genetics. Two. It does not adequately explain the apparently illogical self-destructiveness of some levels of alcohol consumption. Three. It inadequately explains alcoholism s ability to affect all ages, races, classes, groups, and cultures ( Another Empty Bottle). My next and last stop was Oden the libraries catalog for books. I found four books that enlightened me on the subject of alcoholism. They are Understanding The Alcoholics Mind by Arnold M. Ludwig, M.D., Is Alcoholism Hereditary? by Donald Goodwin, The Disease Concept of Alcoholism by E.M. Jellinek, and What You Should Know About Alcoholism by Don Tracy. With this adequate information I have, I feel I can fully explore the concept of Alcoholism being a disease or a lack of self-control. My stand on this subject is that alcoholism should not be considered a disease. Who knows though my stand could change after writing this paper. Considering all the information I have on the subject. To start off with we all know that alcoholism is a loss of self-control over alcohol. Yet where does the addiction become a disease? Or should it even be considered a disease? Some people say that genetics has a lot to do with alcoholism. This is true, if your family has long line of alcoholics, then your chances are quite high that you will become an alcoholic. That is if you let yourself lose control and become one. The choice is always yours to stop yourself from becoming an alcoholic. For example in the case of a disease, such as cancer, Genetics has also a lot to do with cancer as well. If your family has long line of cancer victims for example then your chances are high then to get cancer. You don t have a choice to get cancer or not, but you always have a choice when it comes to alcoholism. Which is why I don t believe alcoholism should be labeled as a disease. You have a choice to become an alcoholic or not, but you never have a choice in the matter of getting cancer. When I started looking over the books I had checked out I realized that they were not really what I was looking for until I got to E.M. Jellinek s book. It really intrigued me to find out about why alcoholism is a disease. In 1955 with help from AA and Jellinek, got alcoholism acknowledged as a disease by the World Health Organization. The reasons why it is considered a disease according to the World Health Organization is that those
suffering from the disease differ from those who do not, and that alcoholic drinking results from an involuntary impaired control over drinking and an abnormal craving for alcohol which can be precipitated by just one drink. Jellinek felt that heavy drinking was initially a result of learning and that the disease of alcoholism developed at some point when the drinking becomes increasingly excessive and the body depends on alcohol on a regular basis(Jellinek). I could see a little bit now why it could be labeled as a disease. Yet I still have my doubts. Critics around the Medical world have contested the disease model theory. In 1962 a survey was given following up on the long term progress of discharged alcoholics. They found that a small amount had been drinking normally for most of the time since discharge. This countered the notions that once an alcoholic always an alcoholic and that total abstinence is the only option. There has been more research that has confirmed these findings. Another experiment was done by a psychiatrist disputing the craving part of the disease alcoholism. She gave small amounts of alcohol either with or without their knowledge. She found that if a patient was unaware that he had consumed alcohol there was little evidence of increased craving or loss of control. When the subjects were told they were drinking alcohol, whether they were or not, reported craving. Which leads me to believe that most of alcoholism is in your head and that it becomes a disease when your body needs it to survive (Another Empty Bottle). Jellinek also goes over the Social learning model, which says drinking is learned. I am not going to go into depth on this model because I have already stated what is about earlier in the paper. Jellinek though gives some more interesting facts about this model that I didn t have earlier. He says All features of the daily life in the Social learning model operate together to shape how different people will respond differently to life events and circumstances. Only some people, for example, will drink more heavily in response to divorce, bereavement, redundancy, loneliness etc. Some may drink more for a short while and some on a long term basis (Jellinek). Most people s drinking varies over time. Basically he is saying that alcoholics start out drinking by social drinking and it either rapidly or slowly progresses to the disease alcoholism. Jellinek states that alcoholics develop alcoholism in different ways. Some alcoholics begin drinking to the point of intoxication from their first drink, immediately behaving in ways destructive to health and relationships. Others suffer a progressive disease, beginning with acceptable social drinking. In the early stages of the alcohol consumption the alcoholics tend to depend on alcohol for its mood altering qualities. Drinks are used to perk up, calm down, celebrate, mourn, be sociable, or to withdraw. When it becomes a disease is when alcoholics have no specific reason to drink other than to drink (Another Empty Bottle). I could probably go on forever about the different theories, models, and etc. My mind though is just in a frenzy trying to figure out what to believe and what not to believe about alcoholism being a disease. Yet there is one thing I can say about the disease known as alcoholism is that I think alcoholism is a little of both a loss of control and a disease. I think it is a disease when your body has to have it in order to survive. Other then that I still don t believe it is a disease from the start until you reach that point. Of course there is also the aspect of you can never be 100% cured from alcohol because there will always be that urge to drink and if you can over come that urge then you can over come alcoholism. I guess the real problem is not the aspect of alcoholism being a disease or not. It is the aspect of society in general has a problem with alcohol regardless of what we label it as. We need to support people with alcoholism and get them help instead of fighting over if it should be a disease or not. I can honestly say I really don t care what alcoholism is labeled as. As long as people get help they can label alcoholism whatever the world wants to label it as. Work Cited Another Empty Bottle . Alcoholism Index , Copyright 1997-1999Goodwon, Donald. Is Alcoholism Hereditary?. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976.Jellinek, E.M. The Disease Concept of Alcoholism. New Haven, Connecticut: Hillhouse Press, 1960.Ludwig, Arnold M. , M.D. Understanding The Alcoholics Mind: The Nature of Craving and How to Control it. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.Tracy, Don. What You Should Know About Alcoholism? Cornwall: The Cornwall Press,1975.