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Alcoholism Is an Illness: Arguments in Favor Essay

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Updated: Oct 5th, 2021

Alcoholism is defined as “a primary, chronic, relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite often devastating consequences” (Thomas R. Hobbs, 1998). Alcoholism occurs as a result of a complex interplay of environmental exposure, biological vulnerability, and developmental factors, for example, the brain maturity stage. Most people share the idea that alcoholism is a persistent disease that can both be clinically diagnosed and treated, much like asthma, diabetes, or high blood pressure. Thus it should not be communally stigmatized but given considerations as a health issue as far as insurance coverage and treatment plans are concerned. Treating alcoholism as only a social problem is not enough because alcoholism is undeniably a very widespread and severe chronic illness that affects many people around the globe and thus should not be viewed as a weakness.

For more than 200 years, debate on whether to classify alcoholism as a personal conduct problem or an illness has been ongoing. Benjamin Rush, from the US, identified alcoholism as an illness in 1784. He asserted that ‘alcohol was the causal agent, loss of control over drinking behavior being the characteristic symptom, and total abstinence the only effective cure.’ It is taken that belief in this perception was so strong that he fronted a public education campaign in the US with a theme of decreasing public drunkenness. He also noted that “alcoholism should not be judged as a problem of willpower, misconduct, or any other unscientific diagnosis, the problem must be accepted for what it is ‘a biopsychosocial disease’ with a strong genetic influence, obvious signs and symptoms, a natural progression and a fatal outcome if not treated” (Hobbs, 1998).

In spite of the various studies authenticating the disease model of alcoholism, there still exists some controversy. For instance, the argument from social psychologists is that the profit alcohol treatment centers uphold the alcoholism “myth” as a lifelong disease. They further point out that the disease model excuses alcoholics for their present, future as well as past irresponsibility and notes that a good number of people can rise above addiction on their own. Conversely, views from some people indicate that alcoholics are influenced by family, with a claim that economic status, poor social upbringing, and copying of parent’s drinking behaviors are the sole major contributors to this disease. Nevertheless, this argument has been dismissed since there is a hereditary basis for alcoholism which translates that alcoholism is a disease that can be inherited [Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism].

Substance use ailments are the main public health challenge facing many nations, especially in the west, and it has been observed that alcohol is the commonly used substance of abuse in those patients presenting for treatment. Alcoholism is a justifiable disease with identified symptoms but with an unpredictable course. Unlike other diseases, treatment of alcoholism takes a multidisciplinary approach following its varied effects, i.e. (psychological, physical, financial). Its treatment involves input from nurses, doctors, social workers, and counselors. Just like any other ailment, alcoholism management starts with a proper diagnosis followed by the formulation of a careful and appropriate treatment plan. (Donald, 2000).

In conclusion, alcoholism is a disease or an illness, treatable like any other disease, and it is also a disease-based concept. Thus it would be advisable to treat alcoholism as a medical problem than as a legal problem. Identification and diagnosis of alcoholism may be difficult because there is no detectable physiologic difference between a person who drinks frequently and a person with the condition. Nevertheless, multiple tools are available to those wishing to conduct screening for alcoholism.

References

Alcoholism Should Be Treated as a Disease. 2008. Web.

Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 2008. Web.

Fingarette.H (1988). Heavy Drinking: The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Goodwin, Donald W. (2000). Alcoholism, the Facts, 3rd edition, New York: Oxford University Press.

Stanton Peele (1996) Shouldn’t we treat alcoholism as a disease? 2008. Web.

Thomas R. Hobbs (1998). Managing alcoholism as a disease: Physician’s News Digest.

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