Alcoholism as a Disease or a Cognitive Behavior
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Alcoholism as a Disease or a Cognitive Behavior
Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) is the leading juggernaut in information and ideas formulated concerning alcoholism and what it is considered. The popular belief for roughly the past 200 years has been that alcoholism is a disease. Many non-conformist religious personalities and doctors believe, however, alcoholism is a behavior and should not be classified the same way as diabetes and periodontal gum disease. The burden of this paper as a whole is to provide you with both sides of the argument so that you can take an educated stance on whether or not alcoholism is a disease or just a behavioral problem.

To set the records straight, Alcoholics Anonymous is not the originator of the concept of alcoholism as a disease. The members however, are responsible for spreading and popularizing this understanding. The concept of alcoholism being a disease was first coined by Dr. Benjamin Rush in 1784 and has since been the widespread opinion of the masses ( A.A. still uses the term disease despite the fact that they have published items stating the term being exercised too lackadaisical, but still helps in explaining situations and stories from alcoholics.

First, let’s start off with some examples of why this problem is considered a disease and later we will hear the other side of the debate. Dr. Rush observed that those individuals suffering from an addiction to alcohol described their problem in a way that resembled many diseases because of its pejorative or negative affect on life. The problem is usually one with symptoms of relapse and dependency. Ferentzy “identifies habitual drinking as a progressive disease and that loss of control is the chief symptom” (371). Much like many diseases alcoholism can be very hard to not only get under control, but to keep under control as well.

Getting the problem under control is difficult because it is described to have a subacute or progressive nature much like Hepatitis. Another corresponding aspect with Hepatitis is that sufferers describe it as something that is not controllable by their will power alone. This psychological dilemma is reminiscent of many neural illnesses and diseases. This problem is not just in their head however, studies have shown there to be a noticeable physical change in the brain and those alterations in chemical levels have the potential to be classified as a mental illness. This notion of being a psychological disease to some implies alcoholism is connected to spiritual feelings and “is an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer” (Ferentzy).

Another view supporting the argument is that of alcoholism may start sporadically and then increases in frequency and intensity, therefore becoming a disease. Still further research has demonstrated both genetic and environmental contributors to the development of the condition. This condition ultimately leads to the mindset of losing control and engaging in compulsive activity, both being symptoms characterized by diseases (Ferentzy).

Those opposed to the idea that alcoholism is a disease only conform to the belief if both “disease” and “medical” refer only to physical changes. Of the groups of people not acknowledging this concept the government and insurance companies are denying aid to addicts. Congress is discontinuing alcoholics and drug addicts from receiving Social Security to cover any medical treatments caused by their condition. Insurance companies are stopping payments for drugs and medical treatments due to alcoholism proving that they believe that drinking is a choice much like they would not cover injuries acquired from base-jumping. Another reason for the lack of coverage is because the companies view alcoholism as an addiction, many do not cover individuals who obtain injuries while “doped-up” on illegal drugs. A quote from a medical conference that Dr. Kurtz attended regarding alcoholism:

“We have never called alcoholism a disease because, technically speaking, it is not a disease entity. For example, there is no such thing as heart disease. Instead there are many separate heart ailments, or combinations of them. It is something like that with alcoholism.

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Alcoholics Anonymous And Insurance Companies. (April 3, 2021). Retrieved from