Is Alcoholism A Disease Or A Choice

Topics: Alcohol

This sample paper on Is Alcoholism A Disease Or A Choice offers a framework of relevant facts based on the recent research in the field. Read the introductory part, body and conclusion of the paper below.

Alcoholism: Disease or Choice? Danielle M Ellis WVNCC Abstract Webster’s New World Dictionary defines alcoholism as a chronic condition which is mainly characterized by excessive and compulsive consumption of and dependence on alcohol as well as nutritional and mental disorders. This definition depicts alcoholism as a disease that is beyond one’s control.

It has however been argued in some circles that alcoholism is a choice and the idea of alcoholism as a disease is a myth. Since it is an individual choice to take alcohol, alcoholism is a consequence of free will.

Both sides of the debate are discussed in this paper and it is my conclusion that there is strong evidence that suggests that alcoholism is a disease that needs treatment. Alcoholism is a choice Fingarette (1988) discredits the notion that alcoholism is a disease.

He explains that alcoholism begins with a choice to drink alcohol which subsequently leads to uncontrollable consumption. In his book, the author explains that heavy drinking or alcoholism is a lifestyle. Advertisements on the media depict alcoholism as an attractive way of life, meaning those who choose to indulge in alcohol are simply making a choice.

Alcoholism is defined as a disease in order to excuse some errant behaviors. It is contended that alcoholics can indeed control their consumption of alcohol.

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The author emphasizes that in most alcoholism treatment facilities, it is a requirement for one to stay sober for a while before being admitted. According to him this means that an alcoholic is able to control his or her drinking. Fingarette (1988) also argues that there are many symptoms of alcoholism to qualify it as a disease on its own. Some have also argued that relapse of recovering alcoholics illustrates that alcoholism is a choice.

Is Alcoholism An Illness

This is because some of the alcoholics who undergo rehabilitation choose to go back to their drinking habits. This has been compared in the same way that some people choose to take heroin or cocaine and later become addicted (Schaler 1991). Critics of the notion of alcoholism as a disease have argued that treating alcoholism as a disease is equivalent to comparing it to a disease like cancer. It is argued that while in the case of cancer one cannot prevent or control the cancer, one can prevent and control alcoholism. This is because one cannot become an alcoholic if they do not take alcohol in the first place.

Some addicts have also claimed that they could stop taking alcohol if they wanted to. Therefore, it has been asserted that alcoholism is a volitional act. Baldwin Research Institute (2003) asserts that the average person, who is diagnosed with a drug related addiction, will on their own stop the addiction 20 to 30% of the time. This means that the loss of control concept does not apply. According to critics alcoholics who believe that alcoholism is a disease have lesser chances of achieving sobriety, due to the idea that they have no control.

Mello and Mendelson (1972) conducted a study where a group of people were given unlimited access to a huge amount of alcohol. It was observed that none of the people tried to drink all the alcohol at once. This was to show that they could actually control the amount of alcohol they consumed. In this study it was concluded that the notion that once consumption of alcohol begins it proceeds independently and cannot be controlled, is incorrect and misinformed. It was also concluded that alcoholism is a psychological as opposed to a physiological uncontrollable force.

This is because the manner in which alcoholics take alcohol is related to their beliefs about drinking. Most alcoholics think that alcohol will solve their problems, thus many are heard saying that they are ‘drowning’ their sorrows with alcohol. Psychotherapeutic thoughts have also confirmed that most alcoholics have underlying problems that they try to forget or avoid by overindulging in alcohol. This therefore means that alcoholism is a choice. It has also been argued that alcoholism is a choice and not a disease ecause there are laws against drunken driving and other drug related offences. This means that there is no way one could be arrested for an illness, thus disqualifying alcoholism as a disease. The law puts in place sanctions against alcoholism in order to control behavior that is caused by the wrong choice, not because of a disease. Schaler (1991) contends that one should argue that alcoholics need support and education about the effects of alcoholism and how to curb the habit. It is suggested that the notion of treatment for alcoholism is misinformed.

Alcoholism is a Disease The concept of alcoholism as a disease originated in the 19th century with Dr. Benjamin Rush. This doctor advanced radical ideas claiming that those who overindulged in alcohol had a disease. However he was mostly discredited because of his assertions that being black and political dissentions were also to be regarded as diseases. Before 1891 the word alcoholic had not been used to refer to a person who took alcohol uncontrollably. Drunkenness was however not acceptable in this era.

Since the 19th century it has been widely accepted that alcoholism is a disease and it requires compassion and treatment just like any other disease. Room (1983) stipulates that in 1951, the World Health Organization identified alcoholism as a disease and this was also done in 1956 by the American Medical Association. Sociologists have advanced various theories on why alcoholism should be treated as a sickness. Room (1983) suggested that there should be five criteria to determine what should be considered as a disease.

It is stated that describing a set of facts as a disease requires that the facts have enough in common to be classified as a single entity and that the facts together should be referred to as a condition and not an event. It is also stipulated that for a set of facts to be labeled as a disease they ought to characterize departure from normal behavior, they should also be located in an individual and they should not occur out of the free will of that individual. Following this criteria, it would be logical to conclude that alcoholism is a disease. This is because it meets these criteria.

It has been stated by proponents of the notion of alcoholism as a sickness, that the main factor to determine whether alcoholism is a sickness or not, is the issue of loss of control. Alcoholism’s main symptom is the loss of control. An alcoholic cannot control the amount of alcohol he or she consumes. This is also a major characteristic of any disease. This is because a sick person has no control over his or her disease. Alcoholic employees are also protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. These pieces of legislation consider alcoholism a disability.

This also shows that the law recognizes alcoholism as being beyond the alcoholic’s control and thus a disease. In some legal circles genetic predisposition to alcoholism has also been regarded as a defense. Alcoholism should be viewed as a disease because it leads to deterioration of health and even death. The US Department of Health and Human Services (2000) reported that by the year 2000 there were 20,687 deaths related to alcohol. Because of being perceived as a disease, there are pharmacological treatments that have been devised for dealing with alcoholism.

Drugs that affect the cortic-mesolimbic dopamine system have been suggested to modify drinking behavior. Medical practitioners suggest that there are subtypes of alcoholism and each has its own treatment. It is stipulated that alcoholism can be divided into the early-onset type, which is chronic and associated with genetic predisposition and a late-onset type, which is characterised by psychological disorders. This shows that just like any other disease, alcoholism is progressive; it has early and late stages.

Alcoholism can also be described as an illness due to the treatment sought in rehabilitation facilities and in Alcoholics Anonymous groups. In rehabilitation facilities those who suffer from alcoholism undergo a great amount of pain when they withdraw from the alcohol. The withdrawal symptoms are characterised by vomiting, headaches and severe symptoms include seizures. These recovery symptoms are also experienced in other diseases like cancer, where chemotherapy treatment is rigorous and excruciatingly painful. Conclusion

Alcoholism is an issue that continues to draw both moralistic and sympathetic debates. Alcoholics form part of the society and it is important to address their plight because failure to do this could lead to a serious problem in future. It has been noted that alcohol is introduced to young children as early as the age of thirteen years and by the time these children become adults, they are already addicted. The solution is however not to point judging fingers towards the alcoholics. The solution lies in acknowledging the problem as a disease, so as to encourage those suffering from it to seek treatment.

Taking alcohol for the first time is a choice that an individual makes, but addiction to alcohol is not a choice. It is a disease that sees the victim lose control of his alcohol consumption as well as his or her life. Many alcoholics do not recognize their problem in the beginning and for a long time they remain in denial. This is also witnessed when some people are given a diagnosis of a terminal illness; most go into denial before eventually coming into terms with the disease. Relapsing of alcoholics can also not be used to depict that alcoholism is a choice.

This can also be said to be a characteristic that alcoholism is an infirmity. This is because many chronic diseases especially cancer, see patients relapse. It is not any different for alcoholics. It can therefore be surmised that alcoholism is a disease that needs to be seriously addressed before many more lives are lost due to alcohol-related problems. References Baldwin Research Institute (2003). Alcoholism: A Disease of Speculation. Retrieved from http://www. baldwinresearch. com/alcoholism. cfm. Fingarette, H. (1988). Heavy Drinking: The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease.

Berkely: University of California Press. Mello, N. K. & Mendelson, J. H. (1972). Drinking Patterns during Work-contingent and Non-contingent Alcohol Acquisition. Psychosomatic Medicine, 34, 139-164. Room, R. (1983). Sociological Aspects of the Disease Concept of Alcoholism. Research Advances in Alcohol and Drug Problems, 7, 47-91. Schaler, J. A. (1991). Drugs and Free Will. Humanities, Social Sciences and Law Society, 28(6), 42-49. US Department of Health and Human Services (2000). 10th Special Report to the US Congress on Alcohol and Health.

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Is Alcoholism A Disease Or A Choice. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from

Is Alcoholism A Disease Or A Choice
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