Philosophical Papers 36 (3):465-481 (2007)

‘Twelve Step' recovery programmes such as Alcoholics Anonymous teach that an alcoholic, or other addict, has a disease, and needs to accept that she is ‘powerless' over her addiction before recovery can begin. However, the disease model of addiction has been criticised on the grounds that some addicts recover without external intervention. This critique is questionable, not because such recovery does not occur, but because many genuine diseases are self-limiting. However, the disease model is better criticised on other grounds. Central here is the idea of powerlessness. This article explores various supposed instances of powerlessness, including that induced by extreme fear, provocation and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is argued that while addiction is a genuine phenomenon, it is strictly inaccurate to describe it as a lack of power. However, there is a deeper sense in which the autonomy of addicts is compromised, although this does not show that addiction is a disease
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DOI 10.1080/05568640709485210
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