Daily Archives: December 13, 2010

* Addiction by Gene Heyman

I’m not in a great streak for books… This one, Addiction, labors for 172 pages of painful prose to show what the author just knows is right: addiction is not a disease, but a conscious choice that people make, and can rather easily undo. In the process, unbelievable and sometimes discordant figures are quoted. Could it be that a full 14% of Americans have a history of addiction (if so, how come I know so few of them? I must lead a very sheltered life). But assuming that is the case, how come the percentage of addicts barely reaches 13% for baby boomers (and is a lot lower for older people)? Are babies all addicted? Hard to fathom. Where is Proofiness when we need it?

In fact, the main justifications for the view that addiction is a choice are (1) several case studies of people who beat their addiction and (2) the touching realization that people who go to rehab tend to relapse more than people who do not. Clearly, this proves that if people had a little more willpower they would not become addicted. (Did I already mention that Proofiness is a useful book?)

That being said, if we can use what we know about people who successful retreat from addiction to save others, I’m all for it. For instance, random drug tests with “consequences” seem to serve as a useful deterrent, together with forming healthful habits to replace addictive ones. Let’s go with that without pretending that willpower is the only way out.

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