Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D.

Department of Justice, Law and Society
School of Public Affairs
The American University

Spring 1998
Wednesdays, 8:30 AM to 11:10 AM
Beeghly Hall, Room 1

Faculty: Dr. Jeffrey A. Schaler
Office: Nebraska Hall, Second Floor
Telephone: (301) 585-5664 in Silver Spring, Md.
Office hours: (by appointment)

Course Description

Most people believe alcohol and illegal drugs cause addiction. They believe addiction is involuntary and characterized by "loss of control" over alcohol and drug consumption. They also believe addiction is a treatable disease. If you challenge those ideas, you are likely to be labeled ignorant at best and a heretic at worst. In this course you will become aware of the fiction about drugs and addiction masquerading as fact, and the fact about drugs and addiction most people regard as fiction.

In the first part of the course we examine the accurate versus inaccurate definitions of addiction. We review the substantial empirical evidence showing people use drugs to change their consciousness for existential and psychological reasons, not necessarily chemical or biological ones. And we investigate the claim addiction is a treatable disease.

In the second half of the course we look at the religio-moral-ethical basis of drug use, e.g. how alcohol and drug use becomes a Rcentral activityS in a person's life--and why. We review how illegal mind- altering drugs and their users are victims of religious and political persecution. And, drawing on philosophical, psychoanalytic, sociological, and psychological perspectives offered by Ernest Becker and Ron Leifer, M.D., we investigate the existential basis of why people choose to use drugs as a way to try and escape reality. The semester ends with a focus on what it means to be an autonomous, "heroic," or "self-actualized" person.

Lecture and discussion format.

Course Objectives

  1. To improve the student's scientific and psychologically-oriented thinking about drugs, consciousness and human fulfillment.
  2. To evaluate the evidence supporting and contesting the ideas addiction exists, is characterized by involuntariness, and is treatable.
  3. To explore the sociological basis for mainstream ideas about addiction, with particular emphasis on the nature and practice of scapegoating.
  4. To understand what happens in involuntary treatment for drug addiction.
  5. To understand philosophical, psychoanalytic, and psychological perspectives on why people choose to use mind-altering drugs.
  6. To comprehend the meaning of being an existentially-"heroic" individual.
  7. To develop skill in debating these and related controversial issues in clinical and public policy settings.

Required Texts
Required Texts and Readings Becker, E. (1997). The denial of death. New York: Free Press.
Fingarette, H. (1988). Heavy drinking: The myth of alcoholism as a disease. Berkeley, Ca. Univ. of Ca. Press.
Peele, S. (1988). Visions of addiction: Major contemporary perspectives on addiction and alcoholism. Lexington, MA.: Lexington Books.
Schaler, J.A. (1991). Drugs and free will. Society, 28, 42-49.
Schaler, J.A. (1996). Thinking about drinking: The power of self-fulfilling prophecies. International Journal of Drug Policy, 7, 187-192.
Schaler, J.A. (1997). The case against alcoholism as a disease. In W. Shelton R.B. Edwards (Eds.) Values, ethics, and alcoholism, pp. 21-49 (Advances in bioethics Volume 3) Greenwich, Ct.: JAI Press Inc.
Szasz, T. (1985). Ceremonial chemistry: The ritual persecution of drugs, addicts, and pushers. Revised edition. Holmes Beach, Fl.: Learning Publications, Inc.
Zimmer, L. and Morgan, J.P. (1997). Marijuana myths marijuana facts: A review of the scientific evidence. New York: The Lindesmith Center.

First position paper                 10%
Mid-term examination                 30%
Second position paper                10%
Final examination                    45%
Class participation                   5%
                            Total = 100%

First position paper: Three typewritten pages max. You are to argue that drugs cause addiction, that addiction is involuntary, and that treatment for addiction works--and why a course like this is dangerous for college students.

Second position paper: Three typewritten pages max. You are to write about how your views on drugs and consciousness have changed or not changed since you've been in this class.


Date             Topic                     Reading
January 21       Myths of alcoholism       Fingarette,
                                           Part 1
                                           All Schaler
January 28       Drinking as way of life   Finish
February 4       What addiction is         Peele 1-4
                 amp isn't;  #1 Paper due
                 Models amp paradigms
February 11      Conditioning amp            Peele 5-7
                 biobehavioral ideas;
                 drugz are us
February 18      New ways of thinking      Peele 8-10
                 about addiction
February 25      Marijuana myths           Zimmer amp
                                           Morgan 1-10
March 4          Marijuana facts           Zimmer amp
                                           Morgan 8-20
March 11         Mid-term Examination      Essay
March 18         Spring Break - No Class
March 25         Drugs as scapegoat        Szasz ix-60
April 1          Drugs as magic            Szasz 61-124
April 8          Drugs amp fear of death     Finish Szasz;
                                           Becker ix-124
April 15         Metaphorical drugs        Becker 125-252
April 22         Heroism, purpose amp
                 meaning in life           Becker 253-end
April 29         #2 position paper due
May 13           Final Examination         8:30am to
                 Essay                     11:00am

* Clear and accurate writing will be taken into account in assigning grades, as well as participation in class discussions. Material discussed in class, or in films, and not in any of the readings, may form the basis for questions on the examinations. One grade reduction for over three class absences. Students are responsible for anything covered in class during their absence. Readings must be completed by the session to which they are assigned. Additional readings may be assigned during the course. Students are encouraged to form study groups on their own. Grades: A-=90, B+=89, B-=80, C+=79, C-=70

Academic Integrity Code

"Standards of academic conduct are set forth in the University's Academic Integrity Code. It is expected that all examinations, tests, written papers, and other assignments will be completed according to the standards set forth in this code. By registering, you have acknowledged your awareness of the Academic Integrity Code, and you are obliged to become familiar with your rights and responsibilities as defined by the Code. Violations of the Academic Integrity Code will not be treated lightly, and disciplinary action will be taken should such violations occur. Please see me if you have any questions about the academic violations described in the Code in general or as they relate to particular require-ments for this course."