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Friday, April 24, 2009

Disabled by booze

If you're paralyzed, you can't enrol in a three-month program to help you walk again. If you're blind, you can't visit a therapist for several weeks and emerge with your sight restored. But if you're an addict or alcoholic, you most definitely can get treatment and emerge clean and sober.

This is why alcoholism and other drug addictions should not be considered permanent disabilities. And this, in turn, is why this Ontario court ruling is patently ridiculous.

Of course, it's all the fault of the Ontario Human Rights Code. Another chapter for Ezra's book, perhaps.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on April 24, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink



First, you are changing the words to make your case sound more plausible. While the article talks about a "long-term disability", you speak of a "permanent disability". There clearly can be a difference between the two that makes your analogy fall apart. Dirty pool!

Second, just because SOME alcohilocs and adicts can become sober or clean relatively quickly does not mean that ALL can. Just as some leg injuries can be fixed with simple treatment and pysiotherapy and others are much more severe. Your assumption that all adicts can recover quickly is just at odds with the facts. Sure, people like to blame adicts for lack of will power, and certainly at least some are adicts for this reason, but that does not make it the case that all or even that most are.

Third, the question of how significant a disability should really count as a disability at all is a pretty hard one. Being colour blind can cause difficulties at times, but it does not really seem significant enough to put in the same caregory with total blindness. I think most would probaby say that an adict who is clean is still an adict, thus still has the disabling condition that can make life more difficult for them at times, but that this is not so severe a disability that it should count the same as being a quadriplegic. So when lawyer Lesli Bisgould says we can't "choose between the disabilities we like and those we do not," she's wrong. Some should and do count more than others because they are more disabling than others.

Posted by: Fact Check | 2009-04-24 11:07:27 AM

I did not change "long-term" into "permanent" on purpose, and I thank FC for pointing out my misstep. The change happened because I interpreted the ruling as meaning that the law now treats alcoholism and drug addiction as, essentially, incurable, while the evidence suggests this is not true. The thrust of my argument still holds: that there is a fundamental difference between behavioral, curable "disabilities" and disabilities that are not tied to one's freely chosen behavior and which are eminently curable.

Posted by: Terry O'Neill | 2009-04-24 12:35:47 PM

Isn't there evidence that when people take certain drugs that it permanently alters their brain chemistry?

Also -- You might want to look at Ibogain -- an herbal treatment that is helping all manner of people cure completely their addictions to cigarette smoking, cocaine, heroin and others. I've heard some amazing success stories from Marc Emery among others about the powerful treatment that has worked on worst-case situations... people who have gone to all sorts of dry-outs and treatment centers and such with no success.

Also, as I understand it, there is some treatment that renders heroin and other substances inert in your body. Once you take it -- the drug will never get you high again (which would end the vicious cycle) - however, the danger is, if you have had that treatment, and you do continue to try and use the street drugs in question - it can be fatal.

I think the jury is still out at this time on this issue...and perhaps time and better technology and more study will yeild a cure.

Until then -- I've known way to many people who can't stop their addictive behavior even if --and oddly enough, especially when it is killing them.

It's weird... I don't consider these people weak. The kind of endurance and tenacity it takes to keep feeding your addiction even when your life is crumbling down upon you, and you are at death's door are not "weak-willed". If they were weak willed, they would have quit. Being a drug addict is pretty damn hard work -and lifestyle that is brutal.

Posted by: MW | 2009-04-24 8:15:25 PM

As usual, Logic Chopper's nit-picking is all sound and fury, signifying nothing.

If you have an addiction, the disability does not go away no matter how long you are "clean." As the saying goes, "Once an addict, always an addict."

The real issue is whether it is possible to deal with the disability in order to become a productive member of society - i.e. whether it is possible to manage the addiction. (If you have a permanent leg injury, you don't get long-term disability benefits indefinitely; you are expected to retrain into a line of work where your leg disability doesn't affect your performance.)

SO: If you can find a way to manage your addiction, then it is not a "long-term disability." If you cannot, then what makes an addiction different from other kinds of disabilities is that it is inappropriate to enable someone's addiction by paying him or her a disability benefit indefinitely - just to feed the addiction. That is, paying a long-term disability benefit to an addict is self-defeating. The better public-policy approach would be to starve the addiction, no?

Posted by: Grant Brown | 2009-04-24 11:25:02 PM

The better public-policy approach would be to starve the addiction, no?

Posted by: Grant Brown | 2009-04-24 11:25:02 PM


Posted by: JC | 2009-04-25 8:47:03 AM

equivocation anyonne?

Posted by: Sam T | 2009-04-26 8:11:48 AM

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