One of the biggest controversies surrounding drug addiction is the debate over whether addiction is a disease or a choice. Are some people genetically predisposed to addiction, or do they choose to keep abusing? When you use for the first time, did you make the choice on your own or were your driven by some uncontrollable compulsion? Is drug addiction a disease or a choice?
The answer has impacted professionals’ and addicts’ approach to treatment and recovery. We decided to cover both sides of the argument below.
Is Addiction a Disease or a Choice?
The Argument for Addiction is a Choice
On one side of the debate are those who believe people choose to use drugs and are not fated to become addicts. These people cite studies showing the user’s ability to quit without rehab programs, either because something more fulfilling has occupied their time or because the negative consequences of drug abuse outweigh the feelings they get from the drug.
They also note the similarities between the brains of addicts and those of non-users. The brain changes as the user takes a drug, but changes occur during other activities. These changes subside after a few months in recovery. If addiction were a disease, there would be a clearer distinction between addicted brains and non-addicted brains, according to people on this side of the debate.
They also point to the success of rehab programs, claiming relapse among addicts would be far more common if it were a disease. Plus, many addicts find success with non-medical therapies, which isn’t possible with most physical or mental conditions.
The Argument for Addiction is a Disease
On the other side of the argument are those individuals who say addiction requires more than just a strong desire to quit. They use research showing a genetic predisposition to addiction to bolster their argument. If 40 to 60 percent of this predisposition is genetic, then some people have a far greater risk of becoming addicted and need more than willpower to stay clean.
They also talk about the changes in physiology that make drug abuse harder to stop. Is addiction a choice? At some point, they would say, it’s not. When taking a drug, your body releases dopamine and leaves you with a pleasurable feeling. Eventually, your body develops a tolerance to the drug, so you need more of the drug to achieve the same effect as before. A disease proponent would argue that if the physical need is severe enough, it may be difficult to stop taking the drug, whether the user wants to stop or not.
The Final Analysis
There may never be a consensus, but two things are clear regardless of the final answer: recovery from addiction is possible and the choice to seek help belongs to you. If you’ve chosen to live free of addiction call us at 1-800-338-5770 for a personal, confidential consultation.