RE: Addiction

From: Dickey, Michael F (
Date: Mon Jan 21 2002 - 14:11:19 MST

----Original Message-----
From: Brian D Williams []
Sent: Monday, January 21, 2002 2:14 PM
Subject: Re: Addiction

"Alcoholism is not a genetic predisposition to addictive behavior,
it is a genetic predisposition to a substance. Once addicted to a
substance it is not easy to quit, but I agree it is essential."

But, the primary question is, CAN a person DECIDE to quit, or do they have
no control over their actions?

"Both alcoholism and MS are genetic in basis. You cannot become an
alcoholic without the requisite genetics."

So a person who enjoys drinking a lot of alcohol, even though he has no
genetic predisposition to 'alcoholism' is not an alcoholic? I would guess
that Alcoholism, at the least, can be psychologically addictive as well
physically addictive. I guess it depends on how you define alcoholism.
Which leads to my next question, how do you define alcoholism.

A) Someone who uncontrollable drinks at the site of alcohol and can not
choose to stop drinking
B) Someone who drinks at the site of alcohol but can choose to stop drinking
C) someone who drinks a lot of alcohol
D) someone who has this particular genetic variation

"Some people cannot touch alcohol without getting ill, an alcoholic
can drink sufficient quantities to kill themselves without getting

Can non-alcoholics also drink significant quantities that would kill other
non-alcoholics? Or is that your definition of an alcoholic, someone who
*can* drink a lot of alcohol and not die? (whatever that arbitrary amount

"Alcoholism is not simply about behavior, and the biochemical
pathways first established in rat studies have been confirmed in

Here we get back to what alcoholism is. Is it

A)only about behavior
B)only about genetics
C)about behavior AND genetics?

I do not dispute that the physiological receptors that have to do with the
pleasure associated with alcohol are any different in rats then in humans,
but humans are not unconscious machines, like rats mostly are. There are
more factors at play than mere genes, namely that humans have consciousness
and can CHOOSE their own paths (we are, after all, fighting 3 billion years
of evolutionary influenced behavior when we put on a condom). Rats are not
known for such things.

>There is also considerable evidence that if someone, no matter how
>addicted to something, chooses to stop doing it, he (or she) can.
>That evidence being the multitude of people who have stopped doing
>something they are addicted to doing by just deciding that they no
>longer want to do it. We can, after all 'decide' to stop eating.

"This is incorrect."

What is incorrect, that we can decide to stop eating, or that we can decide
to stop doing things that we are addicted to?

"Any medical professional can tell you drug addicts (including
alcohol) can and do die going cold turkey."

You also die from 'deciding' not to eat, the physical repercussions of your
actions are a red herring in this discussion, the point of contention (at
least, I thought) was the ability to choose your own actions. Can an
alcoholic choose to stop drinking alcohol of his on free will? Conversely,
can some unfortunate person afflicted with MS 'choose' to no longer be
afflicted with MS?

"The issue is considerably more complex"

that I agree to, the physiological mechanisms that contribute to addictions
and the sociological and behavioral conditions that contribute to addictions
are indeed very complex. But at the heart of the matter, people choose to
do everything they do, and an alcoholic can choose to stop drinking (and
many have, unless you define alcoholic as someone who can not choose to stop
drinking) just as a heroin addict can choose to not use heroin or a
cigarette smoker can choose to not smoke anymore.

>IMHO that is...

"I'm dealing in facts, not opinions."

Sounded like a lot of opinions to me.

"Alcoholism a genetic predisposition to a substance"

"You cannot become an alcoholic without the requisite genetics"

But in either case, I only added the 'IMHO' to encourage a peacefull
exchange of ideas, and did not expect it to be used as a spring board for an
argumentum ad hominem.



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