Is addiction a fantasy?

 

Is substance addiction a fantasy? Is it really just a lack of willpower to stop drinking alcohol or taking drugs? That's what author and columnist Peter Hitchens asserted Monday on BBC's Newsnight.

Addressing co-panelist Matthew Perry, an American actor and recovering alcohol and pain-killer addict, Hitchens said: "You have a choice over whether you drink or not. You have a choice over whether you take drugs."

Hitchens, Perry and Baroness Meacher, of the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform, were on the show to discuss the creation of special drug courts outside the standard criminal justice system in order to treat, rather than punish, addicts.

Drug courts work, said Perry, best known for portraying Chandler Bing on the US sitcom Friends. "People who go through drug court have a 55 percent less chance of seeing handcuffs ever again."

Start Quote

I didn't come here to listen to ludicrous things like that”

End Quote Matthew Perry Actor

Hitchens would have none of that.

He said that drug courts are making the criminal justice system "feeble" and the best way to keep people from becoming addicted is to make the penalties for drug use so prohibitively high that no-one would risk starting.

"The whole point of the criminal justices system, and we forget this all the time, is to deter people from committing crimes," he said.

And that's when it got really good. As an incredulous Perry looked on, Hitchens decried the American Medical Association and the "fantasy of addiction".

"I didn't come here to listen to ludicrous things like that," Perry responded.

"The medical evidence shows that addiction is in part a genetic problem and in part an environmental one," Baroness Meacher said.

"Countries that have addressed this and dealt with it as a health problem are doing a lot better than we are."

Hitchens, brother of the late author and polemicist Christopher Hitchens, is making quite a habit of confronting celebrity drug users on Newsnight.

In August 2012, he took a turn against comedian Russell Brand, with similar results.

"If you can find in yourself to look at human beings with compassion and love rather than with aggression," Brand told Hitchens, "you will find there's more opportunity for progress."

"I don't wish to be lectured about aggression by you," Hitchens replied.

And off they went…

 

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 34.

    Addiction is not a fantasy, addiction is a very real disease. Many people unknowingly get hooked on Rx painkillers. They may believe these drugs are safe because it is prescribed by doctors. Often times, addiction to Rx pills is powerful, even if a person wanted to stop, they are often not able to. Awareness, education and treatment are the answer. The focus should be on helping, not judging!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 33.

    Mr Perry is a dual US/Canadian citizen, born in Massachusetts.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 32.

    Addiction is defined as continuing to perform an act in face of growing consequence.
    Increasing the consequences will not improve the situation at all.

    This fool Hitchens believes he is John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness when in actual fact he is nothing more than a side show nutter brought on the show intentionally to ruffle feathers.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 31.

    Hitchens appears to have issues of his own.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 30.

    Just a clarification. Mathew Perry is Canadian!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 29.

    So many people think addiction is a disease which it isn't. A person chooses to take a substance and over repeated usage that substance changes a persons brain chemistry so they find it difficult to function without it. The initial process of getting hooked is a choice but after that if a person takes that substance after drying out they will be back in the cycle of abuse and dependance.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 28.

    Hmm. I can only recount my own experience. 30-a-day smoker for 12 years, tried three times to give up, but always suffered terrible withdrawal symptoms; did give up once for 2 years only to start again on holiday. However, the day I learnt I was pregnant I quit cold turkey, suffered no withdrawal symptoms, and have never felt the slightest desire to smoke since.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 27.

    Peter Hitchens, with whom I often agree, had a first-hand experience with addiction in the case of his brother, the late Christopher, who was addicted to cigarettes and alcohol.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 26.

    The guy's a royal idiot. The US has been trying to criminalize addicts into abstinence for a century now, and all it's gotten us is the highest incarceration rate in the world. If the US spent even 5% of what is spends on prisons to instead TREAT addiction, it would save a lot of money and lives.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 25.

    All right then, let's throw out 50 years of scientific research because Mr. Hitchens has formulated a better idea. It is good fodder for confrontational television though.

    Alcoholism and drug addiction are neuro-physiological diseases directly related to genetics in most cases, and psychological and environmental forces in others. That's the science and the addict can't just 'decide' to fix it.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 24.

    Although I believe an incredible amount of will power is required to overcome addiction, we also cannot trivialise the physical control addiction has on brain chemistry. Even Bill Wilson (founder of AA and a person with immense will power) understood the physical affect of addiction. He claimed to have had great results with Niacin therapy in treating the physical aspects of addiction.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 23.

    Hitchens is overly aggressive & black and white however, he has a point that is missed. Question of motivation? Perry ascertains that he only has control over the “first” drink and after that he has “no” control. Ex: give an alcoholic one drink then hold a knife to his child’s throat (sry for being extreme) and say have another and your child dies. Does the alcoholic have control?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 22.

    Demagogues have to make arguments like this to keep the cash flowing.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 21.

    Hitchens is a classic example of someone who has made up their mind on an issue for emotional, instinctive and religious reasons and will continue to defend his position regardless of the strength of logic or evidence of his opponents. His complete refusal to acknowledge that people can become physically addicted to heroin, alcohol etc flies in the face of all medical and scientific evidence.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 20.

    Dear Northern 1, studies (such as Consumers Union) show that most of those "detrimental" effects are the result of the drugs being illegal, not of the drugs themselves. Some folks can handle various drugs, which are not all the same, duh, and some should never do any, kids especially. Outlaw tea and you'll see what illegality does vs what the tea itself does.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 19.

    Anyone who believes harsher sentences are an effective deterrent must explain how pickpockets once worked the crowds gathered at the hanging of other pickpockets. It shows no understanding of addiction or mental illness; it ignores crimes of passion driven by sudden rage, and the invulnerability felt by many within criminal gangs. Criminals don’t always perform a rational risk-reward analysis.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 18.

    Can't stop until the bottle is empty alcoholics - can be dry for long periods of time, take one drink say a toast at a wedding - next thing you know they have drained the bar dry.

    Years ago had a boss with this problem, made the mistake of drinking a toast at office xmas party, guard found him much later passed out on the staircase by an empty bottle-person who gave him the drink new he shouldn't

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 17.

    Let's be honest, some things get labeled not necessarily out of medical justification but because with that label research money becomes available, insurance plans will pay for treatment and it lets people feel better about themselves when they can blame their troubles on something beyond their control and after all, isn't medicine about making people feel better?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 16.

    Northern 1

    Your statement if " I pumped " ....most alcohol, smoking, Drug use and stupidly one causes by and to themselves...if indeed they allowed you to pump any thing in them..well

  • rate this
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    Comment number 15.

    13. David
    6 MINUTES AGO

    What on earth are you talking about ??

 

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