What is Addiction, Addiction is a word that is used in a variety of settings, but what does it mean, Szaz suggested that addiction was "the medicalisation of bad behaviour", and in many cases,...

What is Addiction,
  • Addiction is a word that is used in a variety of settings, but what does it mean, Szaz suggested that addiction was "the medicalisation of bad behaviour", and in many cases, people and organisations suggest that " The War on Drugs " is obsolete because the cost of prohibitive enforcement outweighs the drugs siezed. So my question is this
  •  Is addiction a social construct used by governments to control populations, with the use of prohibitive enforcement policies and a "war on drugs" to enforce the need for the prohibitive policies.

    An interesting thought to think about when considering your response, recently Portugal adopted a model of decriminalization to fight the issues of drug misuse,this case has indicated how a more liberal policy reduced the harm of the misuse of "illict" substances within the population, in the case of Portugal an increase in "addicts" in treatment without the drugs free for all which has been the watch word of society in general for the last forty years. Compare that to the UK, and you will see a difference, the number of people incarcerated for posession is on the increase, this goes for the majority of drug related crime, Blood Borne Viruses, especially hepatitis C are a major Public Health Issue, and drugs are readily available for anyone who wishes to expend time and effort accessing them, all this in a country with a very explicit regime of tariffs associated to enforcing drug prohibition.
Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If anything, wouldn't you say that the use of the word "addiction" is more of a way to prevent the government from controlling populations?

As you say, calling something an addiction "medicalizes" it.  It takes the behavior out of the realm of "bad behavior" and into the realm of "medical problem."  Rhetorically, at least, this makes it harder to legitimize the idea of punitive policies.  It makes complete sense to punish people for bad choices made of their own free will (choosing to use illicit substances) but it does not make nearly as much sense to punish them for having a medical condition (addiction).

Therefore, I would argue that a government bent on controlling populations would try to avoid talk of "addiction" in favor of words that ascribe greater agency to the people the government wished to control.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Addiction is a compulsive behavior. You lose control of yourself. People can become addicted to just about anything. The most common addictions are addictive substances such as tobacco, alcohol and nicotine. People can also be addicted to gambling, video games and behaviors.
tutorjim | Student

I understand what you are saying, but surley if we look historically at the concept of controlling substances by using punitive measures, this only leads to unintended consequences, for example prohibition drives a legitimate "medical issue" , if you choose to follow the disease model, underground by criminalising the act of using a substance, in effect removing the concept of choice from the equation and giving the person a label to excuse this behaviour. It is interesting to see how the introduction of punitive legislation has only ever made the issues of substance misuse more dangerous and out of control. Any country that has introduced a system that has been primarily prohibition based has always repealed the said acts once the unintentional consequences outweighed the intentional ones. The obvious example would be the repeal of alcohol prohibition due to the increasing profiteering and control gained by organised crime with all the related social issues around the increase of related criminal activity and the criminalisation of previously law abiding citizens for utilising alcohol after it became illegal. This drive towards punitive enforcement by default, disenfrachises whole population groups because of their choice of behaviours, so surley this is a form of social control, which is then policed by the state through the use of medicalised labels such as addiction and the related criminal justice/treatment  programmes sanctioned and endorsed by the state.