The Production of Stigma by the Disease Model of Addiction


The Production of Stigma by the Disease Model of Addiction:

Why drug user activists must oppose it ! Full paper here

Eliot Albert presents his paper at Liverpool.

Presentation by Eliot Albert session 352 –

(edited for blog by E O’Mara)

“We have seen a recent resurgence of the disease model of addiction, underlined emphatically by the 2007 passage through the US Senate of the ‘Recognizing Addiction as a Disease Act’, one of the consequences of which was that the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) changed its name to the National Institute on Diseases of Addiction. Interestingly, this was couched specifically in terms of reducing the stigma implied by the term ‘abuse’ in the original name. As a press release noted “It also represents an important step in reducing the stigma associated with addictive disorders, and correctly renames the Institute to recognize that addiction is in fact a disease.”

My [Eliot’s] paper argues that the description of addiction as a disease is both scientifically groundless and that contrary to the intentions of the act, doesn’t reduce but exacerbates stigma.

My ultimate point is that we may not need neither treatment nor cure, since we are not necessarily sick or suffering from a disease. What might be needed is decent social policy to ameliorate the dire social conditions, the endemic poverty, the decrepit educational and housing systems which lead a disproportionate number of the underprivileged to become criminalised solely for attempting to seek some solace and relief from an unrelentingly cruel and harsh world. My [Eliots] paper will show that reconceptualising what we call addiction as another example of the wide plethora of human bonding is more helpful and far less stigmatizing as it restores will power and rational choice to people who use drugs in what is called an addictive way.


About Erin

Freelance writer and journalist for the global drug user press
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5 Responses to The Production of Stigma by the Disease Model of Addiction

  1. Jen...X says:

    Commenting on the disease model as the production of stigma. I agree with everything that the author said but would like to expand on the argument. I feel that the pure pleasure of taking your drug of choice is very often ignored in any discussion about drugs. Is it that we are programmed to repeat the behaviours that we find the most rewarding? I personally believe that taking psychoactive substances serves a much more primeval function for us humans. I think that this is what we need to address and stop skirting around the issue of the pure ‘craic and togetherness’ that drug taking seems to induce before some honest discussion can take place? I do agree that the disease model induces stigma that lives with us all when we practice something that comes perfectly naturally to most of the population? What I’m saying is that that I think we should stop shying away from the pure pleasure brought about by drugs and start trying to understand it more?


  2. The Harsh Reality of Drug Addiction richardmclaughlin007 — January 18, 2009 — after 11 months of sobriety from drug addiction, in 7 short days this man hits the depths of despair and insanity.

    This video was shot in Vancouvers downtown eastside by the narrator it is quite extreme, It shows how common place and and readily available drugs are and how people can succomb to a extreme physical reaction from lack of sleep, nutrition and dehydration. This video was made for many different reasons, one being educational the other as mentioned earlier it’s common place here in Vancouver, in any other city or town in North America this man would have recieved immediate medical attention but here in Vancouver both the police and ambulance just drive by. If you do not belive me come on down and see our little human circus slash “HARM REDUCTION EXPERIMENT”
    This man was spotted two hours later sleeping on a concrete curb as his pillow.
    Both the narrator and producer of this video have had spent many years struggling with addiction and have spent hard time in Vancouvers “NOTORIOUS” downtown eastside.
    Today they have escaped and are clean and sober and now dedicate there lives to those who still suffer from “THE HARSH REALITY OF ADDICTION”


  3. Pingback: 2010: Blog in review | Inpud's International Diaries

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