A continued debate in the field of addiction treatment is how to view substance dependent people. In 2007, the debate escalated to the Congressional floor when Senator Joseph Biden proposed legislation to change the name of the National Institute on Drug Abuse to the National Institute on Diseases of Addiction and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to the National Institute on Alcohol disorders and Health.
The legislation did not pass, but it sent a strong message to the substance abuse field that treatment centers should adopt a disease model. However, the success rates of centers which have done so do not necessarily demonstrate betterment in the ability of treatment centers to help addicts. Also, the risks arises when prescribed drugs used for treatment end up on the street are a serious problem. “Street methadone,” methadone obtained outside of treatment, is recognized as posing far more risk of overdose than the opium-based drugs it was developed to treat.
Seventy-five years ago, addiction was rarely if ever viewed as a disease. For example, the British Journal of Inebriety (Alcoholism and Drug Addiction) July 1933 published an article by one E. W. Adams, O.B.E., M.D. regarding addiction. Dr. Adams stated alcoholics and drug addicts “seek means to make reality less real.” He elaborated: “The average drug addict does not accept the universe. He is on the run from reality. He is a person who, could he have been asked beforehand whether he was willing to be a candidate for life with all its responsibilities and duties, would have replied in the phrase of Calvin Coolidge: “I do not choose to run.”