It seems very convenient for the pocket books of drug companies and health care that the US National Institute of Drug Abuse is the party to be claiming that addiction is “a brain disease” (Reinaram. Craig. Addiction as accomplishment: The discursive construction of disease.doi 10.1080/16066350500077728)
The documentary ‘Time Bomb’ does a good job at describing the level of corruption therein. The above mentioned article by Reinaram further testifies on page 308 that most drinkers and drug users do not become addicts, therefore that the properties of the drugs themselves cannot be the cause of the ‘addiction-as-disease’, and that it must mean that it must be individual person specific (Levine, 1978). There has been no evidence to prove or find any gene or organ as the source of the addictive behaviour to date.
“Drugs and alcohol have the potential for problematic use because they produce feelings that may feel good to someone, such as a feeling of calm or increased energy or euphoria, or a "high". These feelings can lead to a person to continue to seeking out the drugs or alcohol.” (Government of Canada, 2019) Many times problematic drug use begins when drinking an access of alcohol. It interferes with your life outside the social context in which you are using. For example, social drinking starts to interfere with productivity at work, or is causing marital stress at home."
I believe the most important issue not being addressed in the documentary ‘Time Bomb’ (https://www.cbc.ca/fifth/episodes/2011-2012/time-bomb) is the underlying issues for the addiction. What is the history of trauma within each individual interviewed? There are so many studies that are pointing towards addiction being a result of early attachment trauma. In a recent Globe and Mail article ‘Don’t ostracize drugs users – empathize with them’ Dr Gabor Mate writes poignantly about his research and experience with addicted individuals. He says that 100% of his Caucasian female client were sexually assaulted as children and every single client regardless of gender had trauma and were looking for a way to numb the pain and making living in their bodies bearable. He goes on to write:
“the famed trauma psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk has said, pointing out that there is almost a direct correlation between childhood trauma and addiction. “People that feel good about themselves don’t do things that endanger their bodies… Traumatized people feel agitated, restless, tight in chest. You hate the way you feel. They take drugs in order to stabilize their bodies.” This drive to regulate one’s body and mind, to escape distress activates all addictions, substance-related or not, mild or severe.
“I’m not going to ask you what you were addicted to,” I often say to people, “nor when, nor for how long. Only –whatever your addiction – what did you like about it? What, in the short term, did it give you that you craved so much?” Universally, the answers are: “It helped me escape emotional pain… it numbed me… helped me deal with stress… gave me peace of mind… a sense of connection with others… a sense of control. Such responses illuminate that addiction is neither a choice nor primarily a disease, genetic or acquired. It originates in a person’s attempt to solve genuine human problems: those of emotional loss, of overwhelming stress, of lost connection. It is a forlorn and ultimately futile attempt to solve the dilemma of human suffering.” (MATE.Gabor. Don’t ostracize drugs users – empathize with them’. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-dont-ostracize-drugs-users-empathize-with-them/)
I really hold onto these finding as I approach addictive behaviours and hold also what we learned about the negative impact of labelling clients with a ‘disease’ or ‘disorder’. People struggling through addiction are not addicts. They are humans living human dilemmas and carrying shame along with possibly many co-occurring issues that led them to the substance in the first place.