The nature and range of addiction has been around pretty much for as long as humankind itself in various ways, but has probably become much more of a buzzword and a concept for a wide range of destructive behaviours and levels of self-destruction in the last maybe 20 or 30 years.
When alcoholism was beginning to be accepted as a progressive illness in the 1930s and 40s, it was the first time really that the nature of someone who had a problem with alcohol or seen as an illness rather than as some type of personal failing.
It was not thought of as an addiction in the sense that smoking is thought of as an addiction. With smoking, someone will sort off almost forcing themselves to become addicted to nicotine, and one started, the nature of striking deepens the addiction until it becomes incredibly difficult for most people to stop.
Alcoholism is different in that it is not a progressive addiction in the way that smoking is. For most alcoholics the need to drink is already present within them, although it may take a while for period for so-called normal drinking before it manifests itself as a compulsion.
When people started developing the idea of rehabs and treatment centres their primary focus was on people who were alcoholics as well as people who had a problem with various types of narcotics and prescription drugs.
The nature of rehabs and treatment centers meant that they began to talk about people who are alcoholics as having an addiction to alcohol, and essentially making the point that there was little difference between the substances in one sense.
The line of reasoning that came out from rehabs was that the problem was the individual, that they had an addictive personality and that in a sense they had a drug of choice, whether that was alcohol, gambling, food, sex or any type of mood altering substance.
There is a likelihood that rehabs developed this line of debate because it allowed them to treat pretty much anyone on the same basis as being an addictive personality and separating out the individual from their drug of choice.
This sense of understanding of addiction is widely promoted by rehabs, but needs to be looked at with much caution. Alcoholism is different from other types of addictions.
The notion of an addictive personality can be a real distraction from helping the individual. Addictive drugs are addictive by their very nature, not as a result of a personality flaw. Rehabs can be really useful in many ways, but their approach to addiction and alcoholism needs to be carefully understood and examined in order for the most appropriate help to be given.