Addiction as a Modern Governing Image

The concept of addiction as an affliction of habituated drug users first arose in its modern form for alcohol as heavy drinking lost its banalized status in the United States and some other countries under the influence of the temperance movement of the nineteenth century (Levine; Valverde). Habitual drunkenness had been viewed since the Middle Ages as a subclass of gluttony; now abstinence from alcohol was singled out as a separate virtue and an important sign of the key virtue in a democracy of autonomous citizens: self-control. Along with other mental disorders, chronic inebriety, as alcohol addiction usually was termed, was reinterpreted as a disease suitable for medical intervention, although without losing all of its negative moral loading.

In nineteenth-century formulations addictiveness was seen as an inherent property of alcohol no matter who used it, and that perception justified efforts to prohibit its sale. By the late nineteenth century such addiction concepts were being applied also to opiates and other drugs, and this formulation has remained the governing image (Room, 2001a) for those drugs to the present day. However, as temperance became unpopular with the repeal of national alcohol prohibition in the United States in 1933, for alcohol the concept was reformulated to be a property of the individual "alcoholic," who was mysteriously unable to drink like a normal drinker. This "disease concept of alcoholism" received its classic scholarly formulation by Jellinek (1952), although that author (1960) later retreated to a broader formulation of alcohol problems.

In popular thinking and often in official definitions addiction has remained a property of the drug for illicit drugs but of the person for alcohol (Christie and Bruun). The inherent addictiveness attributed to illicit drugs is the primary rationale for their prohibition. The extent of the anathema imposed in U.S. cultural politics by labeling a substance as addictive can be gauged from the unanimous testimony of cigarette company executives to the U.S. Congress in 1994 that they did not believe that cigarettes are addictive despite the evidence of their own corporate research (Hilts).

In recent years philosophers and cultural analysts have begun to question and rethink the meaning of addiction concepts (Szasz; Fingarette; Keane) and consider the implications for drug policy (Husak). In a related initiative economists have begun propounding and testing theories of rational addiction (Elster and Skog). By the early 2000s that critical thinking had had no discernible influence on the American political consensus in favor of an addiction-based policy for illicit drugs.

Beat The Battle With The Bottle

Beat The Battle With The Bottle

Alcoholism is something that can't be formed in easy terms. Alcoholism as a whole refers to the circumstance whereby there's an obsession in man to keep ingesting beverages with alcohol content which is injurious to health. The circumstance of alcoholism doesn't let the person addicted have any command over ingestion despite being cognizant of the damaging consequences ensuing from it.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment