culture and illness

Alec Ramsdell a_ramsdell at
Thu Dec 17 21:20:17 PST 1998

I think my last post regarding psychiatry only addressed one side. Obviously alcoholics and addicts deserve state-funded treatment, and treatment can work, even if the high statistics for post-treatment relapse might lead one to serious doubts. This isn't possible now, of course, since Clinton removed addiction and alcoholism as categories of disability.

My criticism of addiction treatment is that it is too quick to accept the medical model of addiction, before other possible disabling conditions. Again, an addict should be entitled to treatment. But what if a patient is an alcoholic self-medicating for another condition? In this case mis-treatment can have devastating consequences. I do know addiction is complicated, serious and real. But the medical model of treatment at this current historical moment seems way off, and headed down a dangerous path, towards "anti-addiction" neurological implants and all that truly scary stuff.

This is all setting aside more systemic questions of material conditions and social relations.

Marta, do you think the medical model of addiction, with all its trappings of the essentialized disease model, and with its possible subsuming of other conditions, is in step with the way disability as a category is kept flexible for the sake of economic and political interests, as you write about in your book?


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