Dr. Anthony Daniels, an English psychiatrist who usually writes under the name Theodore Dalrymple, has produced another excellent article, this time on drug addiction. Writing for the Times of London, Daniels' point in "Don't Blame Me, I'm Just the Junkie," is twofold: one, that heroin addiction is not mainly a producer of crime but just another wrong thing criminals do, and two, that the assertion that addiction is a sickness is incorrect and harmful both to users and society. Daniels writes:
The addict sees himself as a person who is ill, like someone with pneumonia, whom it is the duty of the “system” — the paraphernalia of doctors, nurses, social workers, drug counsellors and so forth — to cure. Until such time as the system fulfils its duty, the addict can continue in his habit, secure in the knowledge that he is not to blame, but the system that has failed to cure him. . . .
[I]n so far as there is a causative connection between addiction and criminality, it is that criminality — or whatever predisposes people to it — causes addiction and not addiction that causes criminality. . . .
It is not true that heroin addicts take a couple of doses and then find themselves enslaved. On the contrary, addicts usually spend a year or so taking heroin intermittently before they decide to take it regularly. It would be truer to say that they hook heroin, than that (as they usually put it, in order to deny their own responsibility) they are hooked by heroin. It is simply implausible to suggest that addicts become addicted by inadvertence or ignorance: the vast majority of the addicted come from backgrounds in which ignorance of history and arithmetic is perfectly possible, but not ignorance of the heroin way of life.
Is any great harm done by pretending that opiate addiction is a disease like any other? After all, a portion of mankind will always resort to mind- altering drugs to obscure the existential problems that confront us all. Certainly methadone when prescribed carelessly — as it is in Britain — is a dangerous drug, and can cause nearly as many deaths as heroin itself.
There is a more intangible harm, however, to the pretence: the existence of drug clinics sends a message to addicts that they are ill and in need of treatment rather than they have chosen a disastrous path in life. It conceals from people their responsibility for their own lives, a responsibility we all find irksome at times, but acceptance of which is the only basis of a meaningful life.
Daniels is not arguing that we should feel no sympathy for addicts. On the contrary, he is pointing out that the way to reduce addiction and its horrible consequences for users, their friends and familes, and society in general, is to recognize that drug use is ever and always a choice. That is a change in attitudes we should certainly strive to create. Daniels' article includes additional counterarguments against the current thinking regarding drug addiction, and you should read it in its entirety in order to understand his argument fully.