Note: Please submit all contributions or 
      corrections for the letter section to 
      the PsychNews Int'l mailboxes: 
      psychnews@psychologie.de and 


Dear Dr Schaler,

I found your column very interesting and also very American. 
I was astonished about you doubting the existence of a thing 
like addiction as I'm working at the "Addiction Research 
Institute". Unfortunatly I didn't get the point of "referring 
to how drugs get into the body". I think no one refers to 
addiction in that sense.

But when you say that no evidence is found for the belief 
that drugs can cause drug users to lose control of their 
behavior you should be precise about the substance you are 
talking about. Benzodiazepines for instance might cause a loss 
of control over behavior - even if you took it in order to
avoid a jetlag. If you go and drink a bottle of whiskey you 
might get more aggressive than you'd wish to be otherwise etc.

You argue that, as the consequences are known, this loss of 
control is not "caused" by the drug but chosen by the user. 
This is true before consumption only and only if one really 
knows about the possible effects. Knowledge is not accessible
to everyone at need as you have realised after getting the 
feedback of your students.

However I'd like to express agreement with rather than 
criticism against your article. Europeans tend to favor 
the point of view that medicalization is still the more 
desirable alternative to criminalization. And I would not 
like to see any company promoting heroin usage or actually
selling it in front of schools as the libertarians propose.

It is interesting to see the drug policy issue being 
discussed in America too and I really hope you can move 
something there.


Richard Blaettler

Institut fuer Suchtforschung (ISF) 
Addiction Research Institute
Konradstrasse 32, 8005 Zuerich
Email riblae@isf.unizh.ch

Richard Blaettler, MA (lic phil I) in Sociology works as 
scientific assistant at the Addiction Research Institute (ISF) in 
Zurich, Switzerland since 1994 specialized in evaluation of 
treatment for heroin and cocaine user and in informatics.



     I appreciate Richard Blaettler's comments very much,
and this opportunity to respond across the "ocean."

     Blaettler kindly states my views are "very
American."  If only that was true!  Quite to the
contrary, American perspectives on drug policy are
generally the opposite of my own.  Americans tend to
view drug use as either a sin, crime, or disease--and
too often a combination of all three--even though the
designations are contradictory.

     For example, when scholars here criticize the
myth that addiction is a treatable disease, they can
expect to be branded as heretics and targeted for
witch-hunts.  These witch-hunts take the form of
public denouncement, character assassination, grant-
application refusal, hiring refusal and firings.  We
live in a culture here where lying has come
to be the dominant ethic.

     There is no such _thing_ as "addiction."
Addiction refers to an activity, not an entity.
"Addiction" is a social construction serving the
ideological, socio-economic, and political interests
of those espousing it.  Just because few people here
regard "addiction" as a myth doesn't mean it isn't one.
Throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th
century most physicians asserted masturbation was a
disease.  Their assertions didn't make it one.
Believing "addiction" exists doesn't make it exist.

     How do drugs get into the body?  People choose to
put drugs there.  That's a behavior.  Behaviors have
reasons, not causes.  The reasons for using illegal
drugs are the same ones for using legal drugs, i.e. to
avoid coping with experience.  Certainly drugs
affect the body, and in that sense may cause errors in
perception.  However, that is not what I was referring
to in my discussion, which is why I differentiated
between what drugs do to the body and how drugs get
into the body.  People choose to use drugs.  Drugs
don't have a mind of their own.  Either a person
chooses to do the physical activity involved in getting
the drug into his/her body or someone else puts the
drug there, either forcibly or covertly (e.g. poisoning).

     Blaettler suggests drug users make choices
before consuming drugs, and lose the ability to choose
after consuming them.  His view is unsupported by
scientific fact.  The fact is heavy drinkers (Schaler,
1997), marijuana users (Zimmer and Morgan, 1997),
(cocaine users (Erickson et al., 1987), heroin users
(Robins et al. 1980;  Alexander et al., 1980) and
smokers (Hennrikus et al., 1996) all moderate their
use of the drug after consumption when they want to.
That is an empirically-supported fact.

     When "addiction" is treated as a disease, a sin or
a crime, research shows the treatment is not successful.
Those who view "addiction" this way are generally afraid
of allowing these facts to be known, because the facts
would drive them out of business.  For example, the
fact is, a year of treatment for heavy drinking was
found to be as effective in reducing problems associated
with drinking behavior as a "dose of advice" (Edwards et
al., 1977;  Chick et al., 1988).

     Finally, it is truly ironic that Blaettler
says Europeans tend more to medicalization of
addiction:  Controlled-drinking programs are generally
accepted and advocated in Europe, Canada, and Australia--
and considered "dangerous" in America, which is why we
have so few of them.

Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D.

Alexander, B., Hadaway, P., and Coambs, R.  (1980).
     Rat park chronicle.  British Columbia Medical
     Journal, 22, (2), 54-56.
Chick, J, Rison, B., Connaughton, J., Stewart, A., and
     Chick, J.  (1988).  Advice versus extended
     treatment for alcoholism:  A controlled study.
     British Journal of Addiction, 83, 159-170.
Edwards, G., Orford, J., Egert, S., Guthrie, S.,
     Hawker, A., Hensman, C., Mitcheson, M.,
     Oppenheimer, E., and Taylor, C.  (1977).
     Alcoholism:  A controlled trial of "treatment"
     and "advice."  Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 38,
Erickson, P.G., Adlaf, E.M., Murray, G.F., and Smart,
     R.G.  (1987).  The steel drug:  Cocaine in
     perspective.  Lexington, MA.:  Lexington Books
     (now available in second edition through Jossey-
Hennrikus, D.J., Jeffery, R.W. and Lando, H.A.
     (1996).  Occasional smoking in a Minnesota
     working population.  American Journal of Public
     Health, 86, 1260-1266.
Robins, L.N., Helzer, J.E., Hesselbrock, M., and Wish,
     E.  (1980).  Vietnam Veterans three years after
     Vietnam:  How our study changed our view of
     heroin.  In L. Brill and C. Winnick (Eds.)  The
     yearbook of substance use and abuse, volume 2
     (pp. 213-230).  New York:  Human Sciences Press.
Schaler, J.A. (1997).  The case against alcoholism as
     a disease.  In W. Shelton and R.B. Edwards (Eds.)
     Values, ethics, and alcoholism, pp. 21-49,
     Greenwich, Ct.:  JAI Press Inc.
Zimmer, L and Morgan, J.  (1997).  Marijuana myths and
     marijuana facts.  New York:  Lindesmith Center