ATTEMPTS to characterize alcohol and other drug addictions as diseases have been seriously challenged. Szasz1-3 claims that addiction is a moral, not a medical problem, and he boldly states that "bad habits are not diseases." He implies that doctors should not be involved in treating addicted individuals and suggests that the solution lies in repealing all drug laws, including prescription statutes.
Conceptual and attitudinal problems continue to cloud the picture. Emphasis is shifting from the use of specific chemicals to the person and his or her problems. Negative labels such as "addict" and "alcoholic," which may lead physicians and other helpers to give up on or reject an individual, are being replaced by more neutral terms such as "drug dependence." Wikler4 cites the World Health Organization (WHO) definition that drug dependence is
A state, psychic and sometimes physical, resulting from the interaction between a living organism and a drug,
Chappel JN. Methadone and Chemotherapy in Drug Addiction: Genocidal or Lifesaving? JAMA. 1974;228(6):725–728. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230310035024
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