Christine M. Flowers claims in her column published Saturday that “Drug addicts may be diseased, but they are also selfish as hell” and that “(Philip Seymour) Hoffman deserves our anger.”
Certainly Hoffman was selfish, in the sense that all of us — including Flowers — are selfish: We all strive, to the best of our ability and knowledge, to achieve happiness and avoid unhappiness.
Addicts are not more selfish (more interested in happiness) than nonaddicts. Rather, their inability to think clearly and to regulate their impulses undermines their own well-being and the well-being of those around them.
Expressing anger at addicts does not help them to think more clearly or better control their impulses.
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Flowers asserts that the “human spirit” in all of us is strong enough to resist impulses in the brain, whether that brain is diseased or not. She therefore denies that addicts are trapped by biology.
But there is no extra “self” apart from the brain that decides whether to indulge a biological impulse. The brain itself is what makes decisions, and a diseased brain makes poor decisions.
Flowers, who is not an addiction expert or an addict, has neither researched nor experienced the struggle to deal with addictive impulses. She writes as if every addict who fails to stay in recovery could have tried harder but chose not to and, therefore, “deserves our anger.”
But we can’t force diseased brains to make better choices with self-righteous anger. Ultimately, addicts themselves either find recovery or they don’t.
John A. Johnson, State College