Addiction: Is it a Disease or a Choice?
People often debate on whether addiction is a disease or a choice, with everyone having their own opinion regarding it. But we can actually look at this objectively, going beyond the opinions and viewing only the facts. It’s important to recognize that addiction is truly a disease, because only then can we begin to provide the kind of help that patients need.
It’s not just about willpower. Every drug—including alcohol—disrupts the brain’s reward system. This means that long term usage will eventually influence the user’s mental state and cognitive function. Their ability to make decisions, learn, remember, and control their own behavior will be affected.
When they lose control over their drug intake, that’s when they know they are addicted.
The very nature of addiction keeps you from making the conscious decision to stop taking the drug. In most cases, quitting is dangerous, if not physically impossible.
Why is Addiction a Disease?
Drug addiction is a disease that follows a pattern similar with that of other chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes. Patients will go into remission, and then have several relapses before finally beating the disease completely. If addiction weren’t a disease, why would it have to be treated?
A person will consciously take drugs, perhaps for recreational purposes, so there is definitely an element of choice. But this is even before addiction kicks in. It’s like a trap. You may have made the conscious decision to get in, but you can’t decide on when you want to get out.
No one wants to stay addicted—not with all the adverse effects that come with drug abuse.
Other than that, there are people who try drugs and alcohol but never get addicted. Some have a situation predisposition to addiction. Once a person starts using a substance, addiction kicks in and becomes much harder for them to control. Choice is now off the table—and can only be restored once addiction is treated.
A Disease that Erodes Self-Control
Making the right choice is much harder for someone with this disease. Addicted individuals remain that way because they feel that they need the substance. This is called physical dependence. Quitting abruptly may cause deadly withdrawal symptoms. Drug dependent individuals will also experience intense cravings, causing them to relapse.
For a person to be able to exert self-control, they need the proper function of certain areas in the brain that regulate behaviors. Unfortunately, drugs can affect these areas to prevent patients from exerting such control over themselves.
Importance of Getting Sober
The only choice that an addicted individual can make is whether or not they’ll go into rehab. Recovery is still possible, even when it feels like it’s not. Just like any disease, addiction can be treated. But it has to be done with the help of medical professionals. Like we said earlier, it can be dangerous to quit on your own.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, rehabilitation can go a long way. A combination of medical detox and behavioral therapy can slowly restore the patient’s self-control, while also allowing their body to recover from the damage.
Look for an addiction treatment center near you today!
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