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Oversimplifications of medical conditions

I recently watched an older episode of South Park which dealt with Alcoholics Anonymous. Knowing what I know about AA, I fully support the mocking of this organization and its "treatment" methods, and South Park did many things right in said mocking:

  1. It is an organization with a very religious message.
  2. Throwing someone into AA for a DUI/DWI is stupid.
  3. It doesn't seem to work.
  4. It's basic premise that alcoholics are "powerless" is untrue and very unhelpful.

However, one point they brought up multiple times was basically "It's not a disease, you just need to drink less."

I'll avoid getting into whether or not alcoholism is a "disease", either physical or mental. There's plenty of room for debate about what constitutes diseases and disorders. What is overly simplistic is the second part "you just need to drink less!"

While it's true that the vast majority of alcohol enjoyers can simply cut back at will, many other people have to struggle a bit more than that. Things like "You just need to drink less" are mainly said by people who have never "been there". The alcoholics I know didn't just "drink a lot", they drank a metric shitload. We're talking wake-up-and-load-the-big-gulp-mug-with-Jim-Beam-and-a-splash-of-soda "a lot". It's not like you will say, "Well, you just need to drink less," and they'll smack their forehead and say "Why didn't I think of that?! Doh!" They've tried that, and failed.

Also, there's the fact that any effort to quit drinking has only a 5% chance of succeeding. In fact, most efforts to change the behaviors that are known as "addictions" have about that same level of success: 5%. Of those trying to quit drinking, only 5% will be successful for a year. Of those trying to quit smoking, only 5% will be successful for a year. Of those trying to lose weight, only 5% will be successful for a year. etc.

Personally, I think this dismal success rate speaks volumes about the nature of the conditions in question, and makes talking about "willpower" meaningless if the speaker has never "been there", but who knows, maybe it could be just as simple as "drink less, you bastard". After all, it is literally true that drinking less is the solution to alcoholism.

Assuming for a moment it really is that simple, I'd like to offer the following advice to other people with other so-called "diseases":

The cures for many "behavioral" "diseases"

Morbid obesity: Eat less food!

Chronic depression: Just cheer up!

Insomnia: Take a nap!

ADD/ADHD: Concentrate!

Anorexia: Eat more food!

Psychopathy: Think of how your actions hurt other people!

Anxiety disorders: Calm down!

Claustrophobia: Those small spaces won't hurt you!

Bulimia: Stop throwing up!

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Snap out of it!

Heroin addition: Just quit using smack!

There! I have cured all of these "diseases". You're welcome!

2010-03-12

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