Thursday, March 15, 2007

I humbly ask Him to remove all of my shortcomings. Well! What's taking so damn long?

I've been hearing about this for weeks now. Big advertising campaign. Politics. Money. All the glamour: Governor Kaine Announces Virginia Premiere of HBO Multi-Media Campaign. The show? HBO's "Addiction" series. The press release reads:

“Addiction” (is) a 90-minute documentary that is the centerpiece of HBO’s national “Addiction Project” campaign that will teach people about advancements in the understanding of drug and alcohol addiction and its treatment as a brain disease.

I'll admit, I'm a free-will snob. I have issues with the "maladaptive behavior as brain disease" argument. Thus, what concerns me most (from what I can tell about the series) is that it appears very one-sided. This article does a decent job with highlighting my concern:

To that end, its message is this: Drug and alcohol addiction are diseases of the brain...This straightforward message is remarkable for at least two reasons. First, it’s intrinsically controversial...The model of addiction presented here — addiction as a brain disease — is somewhat at odds with the cognitive model used in classic 12-step programs. Second, it’s remarkable that so many top-notch filmmakers have consented to push someone else’s point so hard. It’s almost ominous. The sameness of the films in “Addiction” might aid its effectiveness as propaganda, but as art it’s monotone. (emphasis mine)

I don't think it's quite accurate to say that the "addiction as brain disease" model is only controversial as it relates to "classic 12-step programs." Nor is it necessarily appropriate to label such 12-step programs (which AA was the original) as "cognitive model(s)" - it could easily be argued that the 12-step approach is a spiritual model. Step #1 & #2 of the original twelve-step programs are, after all: (1) We admitted we were powerless and that our lives had become unmanageable; and (2) We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. (Several of the others "steps" are also more spiritual than cognitive). Few traditional cognitive models would suggest we're powerless over our lives; fewer still would then say that a "greater power" holds the power we don't. In some ways, AA has more in common with the "addiction as brain disease" approach than most cognitive models, in that both AA and the "brain disease" argument hold that the person has little (if any) responsibility for his or her behavior.

But the author is certainly correct that the "addiction as brain disease" model is controversial, and that the documentary's not mentioning that in any way (if indeed it isn't mentioned; it looks as though it is not) could justify labeling the film propaganda.

Here's a post critical of inconsistent reasoning often used by the "addiction as brain disease" crowd:

(O)ne hallmark of a true disease is that people are not constantly insisting it's a disease. Even the prohibitionists who say addiction should be treated like an illness do not seem entirely convinced. After all, police do not arrest people for having brain tumors, cancer, AIDS, or heart disease. Doctors do not treat people against their will for brain tumors, cancer, AIDS, or heart disease. People with brain tumors, cancer, AIDS, or heart disease are not disqualified from various professions because the government refuses to license them.

On a related note, check out all the college students with brain diseases.

No comments: