The readers’ forum

Addiction is a disease, not a weakness


Re Christine Flowers’ Feb. 10 Other Views column, The selfish act of death by drugs: Flowers is correct that addicts are weak and selfish — of course they are, that’s the nature of addiction.

Flowers wrote that she can sip a glass of wine every once in a while. That’s nice, but others can’t and it’s not because they’re inherently weak or selfish. A single glass leads them to an endless spiral of addiction. They are alcoholics, addicts. Yes, most people can have an occasional glass of wine, bottle of beer, shot of whiskey or other intoxicating substances, legal or otherwise, and that’s the end of it.

But many other people are physically predisposed toward addiction and can’t stop at one drink, pill or whatever it is that makes them high. That first taste is just the beginning of an endless spiral of abuse. This condition has been documented, verified, tested and confirmed by scores of studies. It’s as much a fact as gravity.

But for some observers like Flowers, the issue seems to be one of character, of discipline, motivation and morality. “Just stop doing it. Get clean. Don’t hang around with the wrong kind of people in the bad part of town. It’s simple.”

Podcaster and comedian Marc Maron, a recovering addict (there’s no such thing as a “recovered” addict. Recovery is a work in progress.) wrote recently: “Drug addiction is the closest true parallel to demonic possession that I know of. Having been possessed myself, there is no worse feeling than being held hostage in your own body and mind by a demon that is hijacking and dictating all of your decisions. The demon is using your will to kill you in the name of relief and euphoria.“

So, sure, Philip Seymour Hoffman was extravagantly talented, financially comfortable, blessed with three children and reportedly sober for many years. What was the problem? Why couldn’t he just stay straight? Why was he so “weak,” so “selfish?”

He was not weak or selfish. He was an addict. The insidious nature of addiction is rooted in the addict’s physical and psychological being. No matter how many cautionary movies, parental admonishments and societal pressures are brought to bear, addiction is a disease that subverts the most basic human instincts: self-preservation and survival.

Richard Pachter, West Boca Raton

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