Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D.

Chestnut Hill College
Counseling Psychology and Human Services
Graduate Division

Spring 1998
Wednesdays 7:15 - 10:00 PM
St. Joseph's Hall, Room 246
Faculty: Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D.
Telephone: (215) 402-0268
Office hours: (by appointment)

Course Description

From the CHC catalogue: "Surveys theories and research in the field of addiction. Covers substance abuse as well as models of addiction applied to eating disorders, gambling and sexual promiscuity."

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 believe some people are biologically predisposed to addictive behavior. 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 comprehend the fiction about addiction masquerading as fact, and the fact about addiction most people regard as fiction.

In the first part of the course 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 We review how mind-altering drugs and their users are victims of religious and political persecution. And, drawing on philosophical, psychoanalytic, sociological, and psychological perspectives, we investigate the existential basis of why people choose to use drugs as a way to try and escape reality.

Lecture and discussion format.

Course Objectives

  1. To improve the student's scientific and psychologically-oriented thinking about the meaning of addiction and the foundation of behavior labeled as addictive.
  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 develop intellectual skill in debating these and related controversial issues in clinical and public policy settings.

Required Texts

Berger, L.S. (1991). Substance abuse as symptom: A psychoanalytic critique of treatment approaches and the cultural beliefs that sustain them. Hillsdale, N.J.: The Analytic Press.

Erickson, P.G., Adlaf, E.M., Murray, G.F., and Smart, R.G. (1987). The steel drug: Cocaine in perspective. Lexington, MA.: Lexington Books.

Fingarette, H. (1988). Heavy drinking: The myth of alcoholism as a disease. Berkeley, Ca. Univ. of Ca. Press

Peele, S. (1985). The meaning of addiction: Compulsive experience and its interpretation. 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.

Course Requirements and Grades
Mid-term examination                            30%
Position paper                          20%
Final examination                         45%
Class participation                              5%
                                           Total = 100%

Position paper: Four 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      Addiction defined        Peele + Schaler
                Models of addiction
                Key issues in addiction
January 28      Etiology of addiction     Finish Peele
                Addiction to experience
February 4      Heavy drinking            Fingarette (all)
February 11     Research on cocaine       Erickson, Part I
February 18     What we now know about cocaine
               (and heroin)               Finish Erickson
February 25     Mid-term Examination      Essay
March 4         Spring Break - no class
March 11        Psychoanalysis ~* Berger Part I
                Compulsive Drug Use
March 18        Understanding addiction   Finish Berger
                through treatment
March 25        Pharmakos:  The scapegoat Szasz ix-60
April 1         Medicine as magic         Szasz 61-124
April 8         Easter break
April 15        Medicine and social control:    Finish
                The ethics of addiction          Szasz
April 22        Unanswered questions 
                new directions in
                addiction studies
April 29        Final Examination          Essay

* 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 read-ings, 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. Grades: A-=90, B+=89, B-=80, C+=79, C-=70