According to the American Psychiatric Association addiction is a multiplex condition, a brain disease that manifests itself as compulsive substance use despite detrimental consequences. It is an urge to indulge in something for the pleasure it provides despite its destructive outcome. Addiction can be physical like drug and alcohol abuse or behavioral like shopping, gambling, eating etc. Out of all addictions alcoholism and drug dependency are the most destructive forms with great intensity and cataclysmic outturn. It is mind boggling as to how the authors De Graaf. Wann and Naylor call the addiction to shopping as the “most destructive” of all addictions. “And at least ten million can’t stop buying more and more stuff- an addiction that in the long run may be the most destructive of all” (10). Yes, all addictions are bad and have inimical consequences but some addictions produce effects that are severe, grave and totally destructive not only to the addict and his/her family but also to innocent members of society. It is the outcome, results, consequences of alcohol addiction that make it the most serious, the most destructive of all addictions. Hence the authors’ argument can be refuted through critical reasoning and powerful examples.
Before evaluating the authors’ statement, it is imperative to learn about the underlying causes of addictive behavior, which could be biological and/or psychological (NIH). The biological bases of addiction explains that a person is addicted to a substance not because of a lack of willpower or an understanding of the terrible consequences of his dependency, but because of the changes brought about in his brain by the substance itself (NIH). Dr. George Koob, director of the National Institute of Health says “A common misperception is that addiction is a choice of a moral problem, and all you have to do is stop. But nothing could be further from the truth, the brain actually changes with addiction and it takes a good deal of work to get it back to its normal state” (newsinhealth.nih.gov). Researchers have found that the power of addiction lies in its potential to seize and even demolish key brain areas that aid in survival. Repeated use of substance can damage the pre-frontal cortex, the very area that helps in recognizing the injurious effects of addictive substance (NIH). Psychologists propose several possible causes of addiction. Metal illness or psychopathology, learning addictive behavior as a response to the surroundings, unfeasible or malfunctional actions stemming from people’s thoughts and feelings are all thought to be contributing to addictive behavior (American Addiction Centers Resources). Low self-esteem, loneliness and feelings of neglect and anxiety are all considered to be causes giving rise to addictive behavior. Having understood the causes of addictive behavior it will be easier to proceed with the critical analysis and comparison of shopping addiction to alcoholism.
Shopping addiction involves repeated urge to buy things as a way to acquire pleasure and avoid feelings of anxiety and depression. It is much more than a bad habit (Psych Guides). It can cause havoc to relationships, deplete one’s bank account, push one into perpetual borrowing and ultimately causing bankruptcy and even homelessness. Sometimes it can force people to steal or shoplift. According to Shopaholics Anonymous there are different types of shopaholics. There are compulsive shoppers who shop when they are undergoing emotional distress, trophy shoppers who are looking for the perfect item, addictive shoppers who love the image of a big spender and bulimic shoppers who get caught in a vicious cycle of buying and returning (Psych Guides). According Ruth Engs from Indiana University “ Some people who develop shopping addictions are actually, deeply addicted to how their brain feels while shopping, and as they shop their brain releases endorphins and dopamine which relieve pain and stress, making a person happy” (psychguid). Over a period of time these feelings become addictive. In April 2013, Buzz Bisenger, author of the book “Friday Night Lights” wrote an extraordinary story in GQ Magazine where he admitted to owning 81 leather jackets, $5000 pair of pants and a $22,000 coat and how it took him many years before he started to grapple with the addiction. According to a Stanford University Study, “oniomania” – a compulsive shopping and spending addiction affects six percent of the American population. It is not to be misunderstood that addictive shopping affects only people with less or little money. There have been many rich celebrities who went from riches to rags eg Mc Hammer, an American rapper and dancer who made millions had to declare bankruptcy in the end with a thirteen million dollar debt due to his lavish lifestyle and uncontrollable shopping addiction. Another celebrity is singer Britney Spears who has openly admitted that she shops when she is depressed “ I can be in the dump of dumpsters and go buy a pair of new shoes and feel a bit better” (Spears).
The deadliest form of addiction amongst all is the addiction to alcohol. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism drinking more than three drinks in any one day constitutes addiction for women, and more than four days for men (www.alcohol.org) . If a person exceeds more than fourteen drinks a week he/she is considered an alcoholic. Once a person starts to drink heavily chances are that he may develop a physical and emotional dependency on alcohol. Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIH’s National Institute On Drug Abuse says “addiction is a devastating disease with a relatively high death rate and serious social consequences” (Volkow). Ann Pietrangelo writes in the health line magazine that alcohol’s impact on one’s body starts from the moment the first sip is taken. “Being an alcohol addict can lead to a whole range of serious health problems and increased risked of developing high blood pressure, stroke, heart and liver disease, pancreatitis and even cancer” (Pietrangelo). According to Web MD eighteen million adults are chronic addicts and nearly one hundred thousand Americans die each year as a result of this addiction. Alcohol is a factor in more than half of the homicides, suicides and traffic accidents in the United States. An alcohol addict causes injury and harm not only to himself/herself but could also cause social obliteration and destruction. For example on September 14, 2008 the pilot of AeroFlot- Nord, the flight that originated in Moscow, Russia crashed due to severe pilot intoxication. All eighty eight passengers and crew members perished because of the pilot’s alcohol addiction (Aviation Accident Data Base). A drunken pilot who had consumed more than six times the legal limit of alcohol piloted an airplane killing four people in Anchorage, Alaska in 2019 (CBC News). The deadliest drunk driving accident in the U.S. happened on May 14, 1988 outside Carrolton, Kentucky where a drunken school-bus driver crashed his bus killing twenty seven people out of which twenty four where children. As attested by CDC there is one death every fifty minutes in the U.S. twenty-nine people in a day caused by vehicle crashes due to intoxicated drivers. On the testimony of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) an organization founded by a mother who’s daughter was killed by a drunk driver, two out of three people will be involved in a DUI accident during their lifetime (www.pendslaw.com) .
Having analyzed the consequences of shopping and alcohol addictions it will be easy for any reader to humbly refute or disagree with authors De Graaf, Wann and Naylor who say that shopping addiction is the “most destructive” of all addictions. Although addiction in general is dangerous and deleterious, addiction to some substances are much worse than others. Addictive shopping may deplete a person’s bank account and land him/her in financial crisis leading to severe problems like bankruptcy and even homelessness. This is bad no doubt. But on the other hand alcohol addiction not only expends an individual’s finances but also leads to catastrophic consequences. As seen in the examples laid out, alcoholism not only causes havoc to an individual’s body by destroying organs like the liver, brain, pancreas and so on but it also causes devastative, calamitous, annihilatory effects on others- innocent members of society. Intoxicated pilots kill passengers by crashing planes. Drunken drivers fataly crash into people on the streets. These are lethal, pernicious, detrimental consequences. No one has heard of an addictive shopper crashing into people with his shopping bags filled with goods and killing them. Though the two may stem from the same causes, as they grow they diverge to two separate destinations. Alcohol addiction produces grave, drastic, grievous consequences not only to the addict but also to innocent members of society unlike addictive shopping which affects only the addict (maybe some family members). Therefore the “most destructive” addiction is definitely alcoholism and not addictive shopping.
- “Alcohol or Other Drug Provider Toolkit.” Health Net. https://www.healthnet.com/provcom/pdf/43576.pdf
- “American Psychiatric Association Prctice Guidelines.” PsychiatryOnline. https://psychiatryonline.org/guidelines
- “Biology of Addiction.” News in Letter, Oct 2015. https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2015/10/biology-addiction
- Bissenger, Buzz. Friday Night Lights. Addison-Wesley. 1990. “Drunk Driving Statistics And Examples.” Pendaslaw, 17 April 2017 https://www.pendaslaw.com/drunk-driving-statistics-and-examples/
- Fores, Christy. “English 100: Examining American Culture.”ed. 2020.
- Grigoriadis, Vanessa. “The Tragedy of Britney.” Rollingstone, 21 Feb 2008, https://www.rollingstone.com/feature/the-tragedy-of-britney-spears-rolling-stones-2008-cover-story-254735/
- “Shopping Addiction Symptoms, Cause and Effect.” PschGuides.com https://www.psychguides.com/behavioral-disorders/shopping-addiction/
- “Investigators say pilot in fatal Alaska crash was drunk.” CBC News, 13 December 2019 https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/alaska-pilot-drunk-1.5396311#:~:text=Simon%20Charland%2FCBC)-,The%20pilot%20of%20an%20airplane%20in%20a%20fatal%20Alaska%20crash,flying%2C%20according%20to%20federal%20investigators.&text=The%20Piper%20PA%2D22%2D150,on%20Goat%20Mountain%2C%20investigators%20said.
- “Investigators say pilot in fatal Alaska crash was drunk.” CBC News, 13 December 2019 https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/alaska-pilot-drunk-1.5396311#:~:text=Simon%20Charland%2FCBC)-
- Pietrangelo, Ann. “The Effects of Alcohol on your Body.” Healthline, 28 Sept 2018, https://www.healthline.com/health/alcohol/effects-on-body
- The Four Stages of Alcohol, 25 March 2020 https://www.alcohol.org/