Alcoholism is not a Disease… Or is it?


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Alcoholism is not a Disease, according to many. Is it really a Behaviour Problem? There is much debate concerning this question. Let’s discuss the viewpoints.

According to AA which stands for Alcoholics Anonymous it is a disease and you are powerless over it therefore any exposure to it will cause you to drink uncontrollably. Other opinions contend that if you are led to believe you are powerless over it then you are doomed to consume alcohol if you get a chance.

In other words believing you have no control will cause you to accept that fact and more than likely return to drinking excessively because you truly believe you can not change it.

Alcohol affects people differently. Many people drink and do control it, others do not. There are instances of people going from drinking excessively and causing problems in their lives and the lives of their family to just drinking a couple of drinks in the evening and going to bed. The question of why some drink excessively and some do not needs to be addressed.

Alcoholism is described by Lillian and Murdoch MacDonald as a self- harming behaviour problem with its roots in childhood. They claim to have overcome a serious alcohol problem by relating it to problems experienced in childhood. Addressing these problems helped them to stop their excessive drinking and even drink socially with no problems.

A Medical and Psychiatric Condition?

Let’s see what Wikipedia says about the Alcoholism is not a Disease statement.

According to Wikipedia, the disease of alcoholism is a theory which is generally accepted by the medical community. This source further states that the theory was first labelled in 1760 by the Scottish physician Thomas Trotter. It has since been endorsed by the AMA as a medical and psychiatric condition. Alcohol abuse is a definite problem as it has been for years.

One of my major issues with the disease concept is the alcoholics tendency to feel they have a medical condition so why doesn’t somebody fix me?

Often they will throw up examples like ‘if I had a broken leg they would take me into hospital and heal me’. I have also found that the disease concept can allow people not to take responsibility for their condition as they believe the medical profession should ‘do something’.

The treatment for alcohol abusers over the years has been focused on total abstinence. Does it work?

For most it remains the only way to return to a normal life. Many professionals now accept that perhaps the reasons someone feels the need to drink should be looked into. A different approach to the problem might be in order.

My view on “Alcoholism is not a Disease”

From experience I have found I have achieved the best results by clearing up the issues from the clients past. It is not a good idea however to try and address this before they become sober as it is too easy to use this as an excuse for a postponement of action.

It is hard to deal with a friend or family who is struggling with addiction. The question of what to do about it is sometimes even harder. It is best to show your love and support but still let this person know that this behaviour will not be tolerated.

It is a difficult balance because you don’t really know what they are dealing with in their mind. Many substance abusers have unresolved issues from experiences in the past that they are ashamed to talk about. Once clean and sober these issues can be resolved.

Alcoholism is not a disease is a view that is often held by people who either can’t or don’t want to accept that alcohol addiction has little to do with ‘will power’