Some skeptical of new anti-drug campaign


This article reports that The Partnership for a Drug Free America has recently started an ad campaign to raise awareness about addiction as a disease and reduce stigma. It’s being criticized for characterizing addiction as a disease.

Not a big surprise. The Partnership’s message often seems to fuel the drug hysteria that created and maintains the war on drugs. However, this campaign is clearly focused on stigma reduction and appears right on target.

What I found striking in this article was one of the sources of criticism. I expected to see Stanton Peele, he’s a frequent, strident and highly visible critic of the disease model. I was surprised to see Ethan Nadelmann from the Drug Policy Alliance, a big advocacy organization that seeks to end the war on drugs be decriminalizing drug use. It is also the country’s largest harm reduction advocacy organization. Here’s what he says:

“If we define drug addiction as a disease, does that mean that every cigarette smoker has a disease?” asked Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which seeks to end the war on drugs.

Addiction, Nadelmann said, typically occurs when someone’s dependence on a substance causes problems for themselves and others. The line between recreational use and addiction is too open for interpretation in his book.

“Right now some people say one to two drinks a day if you’re over 50 is great for the heart,” he said. “On the other hand, others say if you need one to two drinks a day, you’re addicted.”

What reputable expert or organization says that one or two drinks a day means your addicted? What a ridiculous straw man argument! I was surprised to see Nadelmann taking such a public position against the disease model. He usually seems to avoid these issues and sticks to advocating harm reduction and decriminalization. We’ve always suspected that much of their advocacy work is based on the believe that what we call addiction is really just a lifestyle choice that should be respected.