Sebastian Payne

The next Spectator Debate: Addiction is not a disease

The next Spectator Debate: Addiction is not a disease
Text settings

Does addiction actually exist? It’s an issue we’ve examined before at The Spectator and I’m delighted to announce it will be the topic of our next debate. On the 21 November at the Royal Institution in London, we’ll be looking at whether addiction is really a disease or simply a form of behaviour we need to find a way of controlling.

We've gathered an expert panel who will be tackling this question, all of whom have strong personal experiences to back up their positions. Arguing for the motion will be regular Spectator contributor, Daily Telegraph columnist and recovering alcoholic Damian ThompsonHis book The Fix examines how addiction is taking over our lives. In the Spectator last year, Damian described how we are entering the age of the addict:

‘There’s no obvious solution to the globalisation of addiction, but it’s not unreasonable to locate its roots in a particular spiritual malaise. One way of looking at addiction is to see it as the progressive replacement of people by things. Not only do we obsess over the things we buy, but we mediate many of our friendships via an operating system bought with a debit card. And when we do meet, it’s often in an environment that’s been meticulously engineered to alter our moods. This degree of temptation is new to human beings and it’s intensifying all the time. Like alcoholics taking our first sip of the evening, we have no idea where we will end up — and we don’t really care.’

Joining Damian for the motion is Theodore Dalrymple, a former prison doctor and psychiatrist who has been a Spectator contributor for over thirty years. He also has strong views about addiction — in 2009 Dalrymple argued that withdrawal from heroin is a ‘trivial matter’ and we should stop being so soft on addicts.

They won’t have an easy ride. Leading the argument against the motion is the broadcaster and fashion critic Trinny Woodall, of What Not to Wear fame. Woodall is also a recovering alcoholic and has been teetotal since she was 26. She described her final binge before entering rehab to The Independent in 2009:

'It's so difficult to know exactly why. My grandfather was an alcoholic; my uncle was an alcoholic, so I can definitely see the physical addiction through the generations. It's probably a mixture of growing up and taking things from my upbringing that made me feel insecure and the kind of person I already was when I was born....Once you're in the throes of addiction I don't think it matters what the substance is.'

Joining Woodall will be Vik Watts, lead consultant for treating addiction at internationally-renowned The Priory Hospital in Roehampton. The debaters on both sides no doubt have passionate feelings about addiction, so it promises to be a fiery and informative evening, chaired expertly by Andrew Neil as ever. Why wait? Book your tickets now.