‘The Urge’ says calling addiction a disease is misleading

Jeevika Verma on NPR:

Just after graduating from medical school, Carl Erik Fisher was on top of the world. He was winning awards and working day and night. But a lot of that frantic activity was really covering up his problems with addiction. Fisher – who says he comes from a family with a history of addiction – descended into an alcohol and Adderall binge during residency. A manic episode led to his admission to the Bellevue Hospital Psychiatry ward in New York, where just years ago, he’d interviewed for residency. “Because I was a doctor, because I’m white, because when the NYPD came to get me out of my apartment I was living in an upscale neighborhood —I got a lot of treatment and I got a lot of compassion,” he says. “Sadly, many people with addiction can’t even access services, let alone the kind of quality of services I was able to get.”

Today, Fisher is in recovery and an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University. His new book The Urge: Our History of Addiction – part memoir, part history – looks at the importance of careful language when talking about addiction, and how treatment has historically ignored its complex socio-cultural influences.