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Is Alcoholism a Disease?

April 03, 1988

It is unfortunate that your staff writer emphasized the debate over "safe drinking" rather than the deeper issue addressed by Herbert Fingarette's work, that of personal responsibility versus victimization.

We are fast becoming a society of powerless automatons determined by blind forces of heredity, biochemistry, and disease. People who are conditioned to believe they have no choice eventually stop making the effort to choose. The disease theory of behavioral disorders is a 20th-Century version of "The devil made me do it."

The work of Fingarette and others reminds us that though human freedom is limited, it is a greater capacity than we like to believe. It may be therapeutically helpful to treat problem drinking as if it were a disease, but it is psychologically and spiritually destructive to reinforce a person's illusion of powerlessness and "victimhood."

SHARON R. SMITH

Riverside

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