Addiction… Disease to Accommodate or Personal and Lifestyle Choice?

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.

Do you think that addiction is a disease?

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3 Responses to Addiction… Disease to Accommodate or Personal and Lifestyle Choice?

  1. Terry Halifax NS 2009/07/26 at 7:05 pm #

    Oh if life were as simple as yes or no. What fool would embark on such an argument. This is a very individual situation and is rarely purely one or the other. Addiction like everything else in life is different for each person, unique to there own situation. Some people fear sobriety more than death while others feed the thoughts that urge them to drink when clear reason might be followed to choose another path. Most people are between the two so that leaves us with perhaps more work in helping each person who is addicted. Let’s not be stupid and lump them into a heap to be regarded in the same cheap mentality… They are all the same! I applaud the person who sees the individuality in all of us with our own unique situation.

  2. Noelle 2010/04/04 at 3:28 pm #

    A fourteen year old girl meets a boy 16. She has been brought up in good home with loving parents, t-ball, baseball, piano, skating lessons, drams at school, lots of friends, bday parties etc. No abuse, no drugs, no liquor and Church on Sundays. She meets a young man whose group thinks to date a blonde and blue eyed young lady would add to his standing in his group. It doesn’t take long for the young girl to fall in love and therefore do anything this young man asks and when the parents diagree she leaves for the love of her life. Sex and drugs become a part of life along with abuse, she feels she has can’t go home so stays. Her parents spend thousands and thousands of dollars looking for her, the heartbreak all around is unimaginable. She turns 15 and is addicted to both acholol and drugs and the love of her life is sharing his blonde and blue eyed girl. Her parents find her and forceably take her to a treatment centre and there she finds sobietry and her family again. Today after 12 years she is married to a wonderful man and having their first child. The last 12 years have been tough living in a society that sees no problem with children experimenting with drugs. Believe me it is everywhere.

    Addiction is a disease make no mistake. No one would choose the life addiction leads them to. Someone told me years ago that foreign countries need not invade Canada with armies. All they have to do is supply our young people with drugs and fight for the right to do so and they will be able to walk through our borders without firing a shot. Again, make no mistake just because a shot has not been fired does not mean this generation of kids will not die.
    So don’t talk to me about addiction not being a diease. But with being said we can’t stick our heads in the sand and not make them responsible for their behaviors. We all know right from wrong. But what do you do with someone who never matured to be able to live in the adult world. A person who starts using at 12 cannot be expected to display adult behaviors at 16, 18, 20, 25, 20, 50 or any age. They have no idea HOW. We need to treat them like children and remand them to detox, treatments centres. We should not be rewarding bad behavior with days off because they can’t get out of bed, FORCE, them to get help, help them make that decision. And yes I understand our individual rights but heck what about mine, I count to not just the addict.
    I’m rambling. Enough.

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