Our brains evolved (or were designed, if you must) to be judgmental, to assess situations at a glance and classify them as good or bad, dangerous or advantageous — just as you are doing with regard to the first part of this sentence. The ability to do this quickly and form opinions rapidly helped keep our ancestors alive in an uncertain world and assisted them in evaluating the relatively simple issues of their lives and the lives of those around them. They passed these abilities on to us. These inherent skills serve us well in many instances, but we have to be careful. Life is more complicated now.
There are a couple of misconceptions about alcoholism and addiction that need to be set straight from time to time. One has to do with the actual causes of addiction (including alcohol addiction), the other with volition and morality.
Alcoholism is a disease. So is addiction. A disease is “…an abnormal condition of the body or mind that causes discomfort or dysfunction; distinct from injury insofar as the latter is usually instantaneously acquired.”
There is no competent debate about this issue. Alcoholism was recognized as a disease by the American Medical Association in 1956. The American Psychological Association followed a very few years later. Both organizations recognized other addictions as diseases a bit later still. There can be no question about either, according to the above, or any other accurate definition. Back in the mid-20th Century they were not sure about the causes, but the discomfort and profound dysfunction were obvious.
We now know that between five and ten percent of the population are born with a genetic predisposition to addiction. Continue reading