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Do you agree with the AMA's decision to label alcoholism and obesity as diseases?

Asked by: Proletariat
  • There is no clear cut definition of Disease.

    Because Disease is becoming such a broad term a sort of catch all form of labeling, You can make an argument for just about any condition to be classified as a disease. I see no reason to exclude Obesity or Alcoholism from this classification. Some would argue that heart disease is a preventable condition. I don't see preventable as a disqualification for the classification of diseases.

  • You can contract malaria or yellow fever but you cannot contract alcoholism or obesity - people need to take personal responsibility for self-inflicted health issues.

    True, some people may be more predisposed to alcoholism: personally I drink far too much but this is partly because my dad is a heavy drinker and so was my granda. Still, drinking alcohol is absolutely my choice. Of course, I sympathise with obese people in the sense that drinking is a habit as much as an addiction and it is very difficult to cut down and it must be just as difficult for obese people to reduce their calorific intake and increase the amount of exercise they do.

    However, I have to take personal responsibility for my own shortcomings, blaming my excessive drinking on a ‘disease’ is just a justification to do nothing about my problems and, similarly, telling obese people their weight issues are not their fault but a medical condition instead will not help them make the effort to lose weight.

  • Addiction vs Disease

    Well first we should look at the definition of 'disease'
    1. A pathological condition of a part, organ, or system of an organism resulting from various causes, such as infection, genetic defect, or environmental stress, and characterized by an identifiable group of signs or symptoms.
    2. A condition or tendency, as of society, regarded as abnormal and harmful.

    These seem to be the recurring definitions around the net as I don't not have access to an official medical dictionary.

    Obesity and Alcoholism fit better into the second meaning than the first one.

    This being said, Alcoholism and Obesity should be addressed separately, as one is a recognised and very old addiction while the other is much more recent.

    While I have given the official definitions of 'disease', the meaning I give it personally is normally along the lines of it is caused by a foreign body infecting the host. This normally refers to diseases and viruses. Or, the cause is unknown and the body begins breaking down or attacking itself for no apparent reason.

    In this case, then both obesity and alcoholism aren't diseases. One is an addiction to alcohol and the other is a variety of things such as it's cheap, fast and easy, people aren't getting out and burning off all the calories they consume during the day.

    There are many myths and untruths when talking about obesity. There are some out there that truly have health problems that result in them retaining weight and being unable to lose it. But with many others they have a choice of what you put in their mouth and how often you choose to do so and how much physical activity they do to combat that intake.

    The problem with the obesity argument is that there are so many things going into our food that we often have no idea what is in it. It may have gotten to the stage where some foods are addictive.

    Lifestyle can set someone on the road of obesity for life. The best example would be obese parents ordering take away more than one night a week, this endearing their children to the franchises, and also getting them 'hooked' on the food.

    The main argument I'd like to make that in the cases of those who are obese or an alcoholic, they need counselling or therapy more than they need disability checks and medication. AA exists because alcoholism is something to be worked through by addressing the underlying issues, and this is an addiction that can be physical as well as psychological. Obesity could be called a food addiction, but again the addiction is normally to cover up underlying issues. There are pills to suppress the cravings for both alcohol and food, but this doesn't address the cause.

    So while these two conditions fit the definition of disease, they shouldn't be addressed or treated like one.


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