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Is Addiction a Choice, or a Disease?



We all know that addiction is a disease. But what does that mean? Is addiction a choice, or something you’re born with? 

And how can we tell the difference between someone who’s addicted to drugs and someone who isn’t? 

These are questions I’ve heard many times over the years, so I thought it would be helpful to address them here.


Table of Contents

Some people still believe that drug use is a choice

They argue that if someone wants to stop using drugs, they can simply choose to do so and then do it. This is not always true, though. 

Sometimes people who decide to stop using drugs find themselves unable to do so

—they may feel like they are physically dependent on the substance and have no control over their desire to keep taking it.

So why does this happen? Why don’t we always have complete control over our bodies and minds? 

There are many reasons why drug users might not be able to stop even when they want to; one of these reasons is genetics. 

In some cases, certain genes make us more prone than others (and our loved ones) toward developing conditions such as anxiety disorders or depression; other times these same genes may predispose us toward addiction if we use certain substances regularly enough over time

—especially those with high abuse potentials such as opioids or alcohol because these can alter brain chemistry in ways that make cravings harder both before and after quitting entirely.”


Addiction changes the brain and affects things like perception, judgment, and self-control

You probably know that addiction changes the brain. But you may not be aware of how it affects things like perception, judgment and self-control.

Addiction changes the brain in a way that makes drug use more pleasurable than other activities (like eating or sex). 

This is known as dopamine dysregulation syndrome. Dopamine is a chemical in your brain that helps regulate movement, thinking and motivation

—but when drugs flood the brain with extra dopamine (or block its ability to clean itself up), it can lead to addiction.

The good news: research shows that certain areas of your brain can recover from this damage once you stop using drugs

—and even before then if you’re able to manage your cravings through behavioral techniques like mindfulness meditation or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). 

But if you keep abusing your body with harmful substances, these areas will take longer to repair themselves—and they may never fully recover.


Some drugs change the brain in ways that make it difficult to quit using them

Drugs change the brain in ways that make it difficult to quit using them. This is one of the reasons why drugs are so addictive.

Many kinds of drugs can cause addiction and dependence: 

  1. alcohol
  2. opioid painkillers like OxyContin, Vicodin, or heroin;
  3. marijuana;
  4. methamphetamine;
  5. cocaine;
  6. ecstasy (MDMA);
  7. hallucinogens like LSD and PCP (“angel dust”). 

These seven types differ in how much they affect your brain chemistry

—and therefore how likely you are to become addicted.

While some people may have stronger risk factors, addiction can happen to anyone

If you use drugs or alcohol regularly, you’re at greater risk for developing an addiction than someone who doesn’t use them. 

But even if you have a higher chance of being diagnosed with an addiction, it’s not the result of predestination or fate

—it’s simply because you’ve been exposed to more opportunities and triggers than other people.

Still, if your friends are all using drugs or alcohol, it’s easier for them to start using them too. 

And if they all stop using it when things get hard or uncomfortable (like when the cops show up), it sends the message that getting high is more important than anything else

—including avoiding jail time.

The reality of the situation is that substance abuse disorders are caused by a combination of factors such as genetics and access to substances that can lead users down their path toward addiction. 

These factors often don’t align in one person; rather, they’re spread out among multiple members within a family tree over generations – meaning that if one person gets addicted then there’s probably another person somewhere else in his or her life who will also become dependent on drugs at some point (even if they haven’t yet).


No one's choices are made in a social vacuum

It’s important to consider the role of social factors in addiction. 

A person’s choices are rarely made in a social vacuum, and family, friends, and community can play a big part in their life: whether they have good relationships with their parents; if they go to church or not; whether they live in an area where drugs are readily available. 

All of these things can influence how likely someone is to become addicted, as well as how likely they are to recover from addiction when they decide they want help.


A person who abuses drugs and may not be addicted has more control over their behavior than one who is addicted

You may have heard the phrase “addiction is a choice,” or even thought about it yourself. But addiction isn’t a choice at all. 

Addiction is an illness that alters your brain chemistry, making it nearly impossible to control your behavior despite knowing that doing so will cause harm. 

In short, addiction changes how you think, feel, and act while taking over your life and making you do things against your wishes and best interests.

This might sound like being controlled by something outside yourself

—perhaps an evil force or an outside force like another person—but this isn’t the case either: even though it feels like there’s someone else in control when you’re addicted to something (and there often is), ultimately the decisions that lead to problem behaviors are yours alone. 

It’s just that these decisions are made unconsciously or with diminished awareness because of how much time has passed since last using drugs/alcohol/food/etc., which has led to permanent changes in brain structure and function.


Addiction can be a choice early on

It’s important to remember that addiction can be a choice at first, but after repeated use or exposure to higher doses of drugs, addiction can take over and become a disease.

It’s also important to know that while some people claim they cannot control their addictive behavior, there are many others who have successfully managed their addictions with treatment. 

Whether you’re currently struggling with an addiction or just want to learn more about it so you can help someone else in your life who is struggling with substance abuse issues, being educated on the subject is always helpful.


Addiction is complicated, but it's helpful to have scientific information about it in order to understand addiction as a disease.

If you’ve ever had a friend or family member who has struggled with addiction, you’re probably aware that it’s a complex issue. Addiction can affect anyone. 

It’s not just something that happens to people with certain backgrounds or upbringings

—anyone can become addicted to drugs and alcohol, whether they’re rich or poor, white or black, male or female, young or old.

The problem is that many people don’t understand what addiction is and think it’s just a matter of willpower: if someone doesn’t have the willpower to stop using drugs and alcohol then they must be weak-willed people who should just “snap out of it.” 

But this isn’t true at all! Many different factors cause someone to become addicted in the first place; some of these include genetics (for example genetic predisposition towards alcoholism), mental health issues such as depression and anxiety disorders (which may also explain why some people are more susceptible than others), stressors in life like losing a job/marriage/friendship, etc., peer pressure from friends who use heavily (and possibly even encourage them) as well as other reasons that aren’t immediately apparent at first glance but still play an important role nonetheless when trying to understand why someone might develop an issue like substance abuse disorder (SUD).

The science of addiction is complicated, and there’s no perfect answer to the question of whether it’s a choice or not. 

But the more we understand how our brains work, and what makes people prone to certain behaviors, the more we can help those who need it most.


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