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Philosopher explains why addiction isn’t a moral failure

March 7, 2018 – Raising awareness of the facts about the disease of addiction and breaking the stigma associated with addiction are necessary steps toward truly helping families affected by addiction. A philosopher breaks down why the public misconception about addiction is an obstacle to helping individuals struggling with addiction to seek treatment.

Brendan de Kenessey, a philosopher who works on morality and psychology, wrote this week in Vox to urge policymakers to recognize that addiction isn’t a moral failure and enact measures to help those struggling with addiction gain access to treatment:

Surely I would do better in their situation, we think to ourselves. We may not endorse the idea — we may think it is flat-out wrong — but there’s a part of us that can’t help but see addiction as a symptom of weak character and bad judgment.

Latent or explicit, the view of addiction as a moral failure is doing real damage. The stigma against addiction is “the single biggest reason America is failing in its response to the opioid epidemic,” Vox’s German Lopez concluded after a year of reporting on the crisis. To overcome this stigma, we need to first understand it. Why is it so easy to see addiction as a sign of flawed character?

We tend to view addiction as a moral failure because we are in the grip of a simple but misleading answer to one of the oldest questions of philosophy: Do people always do what they think is best? In other words, do our actions always reflect our beliefs and values? When someone with addiction chooses to take drugs, does this show us what she truly cares about — or might something more complicated be going on?

These questions are not merely academic: Lives depend on where we come down. The stigma against addiction owes its stubborn tenacity to a specific, and flawed, philosophical view of the mind, a misconception so seductive that it ensnared Socrates in the fifth century BC.

Malvern Institute: We Give Hope

If you or a loved one are living with addiction, we can help. Learn about Malvern Intervention Services or the Malvern Model Of Care by calling 610.MALVERN (610.625.8376).

Read the full story from Vox.

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