From years of research, the prevalent medical view is that addiction is a disease that affects both brain and behaviour. But is it? And, does this view further enable the addict to continue their destructive behaviour?
Dr Gene M. Heyman, a Harvard Medical School lecturer, has recently concluded his research and published a book, Addiction: A Disorder of Choice, which casts a different perspective on addiction. Dr Heyman argues that addiction is governed by personal and lifestyle choice. Dr. Heyman’s research concludes addicts will cease their self-destructive behaviour if the consequences are significant and dire. Addiction, according to Dr. Heyman, is therefore not an involuntary illness or disease. (Dr Heyman’s interview with CTV can be seen here: Interview)
You have to wonder about the implications of Dr. Heyman’s position upon public policy should his position gain significant medical, social or politically support. Because addiction is considered a disability, the Human Rights Act imposes a duty to accommodate onto the employer up to the point of undue hardship. However, Dr. Heyman’s assertion that addiction is a personal and lifestyle choice could drastically affect the way employers deal with employees who are addicted. The duty to accommodate an addict could possibly become a policy of the past. Employers would have much greater freedom to dismiss employees who have shown behavioural issues (eg. poor attendance, poor performance, etc) as a result of their addiction.
Tell us what you think. Do you think addiction is a disease and should be accomodated by the employer or is addiction a personal and lifestyle behaviour and is therefore outside of the protection of the Human Rights Act?
For anyone requiring more information on addiction, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is an excellent resource.