Should We Have a National Institute of Addiction?

Video games, poker, and sex can form destructive habits, too

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When it comes to addiction in America, it's not just the disease, but also the cure that's harming us. That, at least, is the view of psychologist and self-described "raconteur" Stanton Peele. The author of 7 books and hundreds of articles on the subject, Peele argues that the the National Institute on Drug Abuse is too-narrowly defined to be effective. As he puts it in the Huffington Post:

Government agencies and official psychiatry ignore non-drug addictions - like gambling, sex, and video games, to name a few. The official diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) does not use the term "addiction," but only dependence. Yet the only thing it views people as becoming dependent on are substances...

We need to recognize that (1) addiction is an extreme of behavior that may occur with drugs, but also with other compelling habits, (2) it can't be linked to specific chemical compounds or types of brain action, (3) we'll simply have to evaluate habits in terms of the impact they have on people's lives.

As such, Peele thinks that "Crazy Uncle Joe Biden - you know, the one who drank near-beer at the President's White House garden beer bash" had the right idea when he proposed altering the agency's name as a senator (yet thoughtfully making sure to preserve the acronym). How big of a difference would it make if we had a "National Institute of Diseases of Addiction," and a correspondingly wider scope?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.