The term addiction is not unfamiliar to most people. Most commonly, the first thing that springs to mind is drug addiction: an addiction to cocaine, heroin, or alcohol.
What about the obsessive streak of determination that strikes immediately after purchasing the newest video game? You resolve to finish the game, oftentimes forgoing a much-needed food or bathroom break.
What about the infatuation you experience right after having met someone new? You check your phone constantly for calls and text messages. You stalk them on Facebook and Twitter for any insight into their lives, thinking of little else.
Some suggest that all of these situations are caused by one disease: addiction.
Because of shows such as TLCs My Strange Addiction, people can make light of addictions, causing them to seem trivial.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine in Aug. 2011 redefined addiction as a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.
The definition, at its root, was meant to reduce some of the stigma associated with addiction. Nonetheless, redefining the term will not change its effects on society, and addicts must be held accountable for their choices.
According to a study by addiction specialist Dr. Stanton Peele this month, there are no correlations between addictive behavior and genetics. There is no evidence suggesting that addiction or addictive behaviors are inherited, especially since one gene cannot contain the innumerable facets associated with addiction.
Moreover, he asks, if addiction was genetic, why are those with the addictive inheritance likely to be found in the same groups of people or social settings?
Nonetheless, it would be incorrect to say that addiction has no physical consequences on the brain. According to a 2011 article titled The Science of Addiction by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, there are clear differences between the MRI brain scans of someone with an addiction compared with someone without. However, there is no evidence that can pinpoint a predisposition for addiction.
As Psychologist Jeff Schaler, author of Addiction Is a Choice, said, whats next, are we going to blame fast food restaurants for the foods that they sell based on the marketing, because the person got addicted to hamburgers and french fries?
With addiction now classified as a disease, compulsive gamblers can redirect the blame away from themselves. Canadian Jean Brochu sued the government for causing his gambling sickness while getting away with the embezzlement of $50,000. He was placed on probation and told to see a psychologist but served no jail time because he was helplessly addicted. He and his lawyers want to sue for $700 million for the sake of all other gamblers whom the state made sick.
Classifying addiction as a disease is harmful both to the psyche of the addict and to society in general. Addicts are no longer taking responsibility for the actions that have led to their addictions. The solution to addiction is not the redefinition of the problem.