9th March 2018
There has been an ongoing debate in the United States and around the world as to the nature of the phenomenon of addiction. While experts and medical professionals agree that addiction is a disease, many people believe it has nothing to do with illness. Instead, they argue that addiction is a choice or a moral deficiency. Indeed, the country is divided when it comes to explaining the cunning, baffling, and powerful condition of addiction.
Addiction Explained as a Choice
Many people have a difficult time accepting the explanation that addiction is a disease. They think that some who has a substance abuse problem has made the choice to become addicted. If addiction were a choice, someone with a drug or alcohol problem could quit whenever they want to – and most addicts or alcoholics will tell you that they desperately want to stop, but they can’t.
While there is no doubt that someone chooses to use drugs or alcohol for the very first time – usually out of sheer curiosity – they do not choose to become addicted. It is unlikely to find an addicted person declaring to themselves, “I think I will become a heroin addict, that sounds like fun!” or “I’ve always wanted to become a falling down drunk. This is not what happens.
Here is what does happen: someone makes the choice to experiment with drugs or alcohol, not knowing that their brain is wired in such a way that they will inevitably become addicted. Someone with the disease of addiction simply cannot control their use of mood or mind-altering substances. Although people do initially make the choice to use drugs or alcohol, they do not make the choice to become or stay addicted.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Even if taking a drug for the first time is a “free” choice, the progression of brain changes that occurs after that involves the weakening of circuits in the prefrontal cortex and elsewhere that are necessary for exerting self-control and resisting the temptations of drug use. Once addiction takes hold, there is greatly diminished capacity, on one’s own, to stop using. This is why psychiatry recognizes addiction as a disease of the brain, and why professional intervention is needed to treat it in most instances.”
Addiction Explained as a Moral Deficiency - Are Addicted People Just Bad People?
While some explain addiction as a choice, others think that those who are addicted are “bad” or “evil” people. With this school of thought, people explain addiction as a moral deficiency. They believe that someone who has a substance abuse problem lacks character and embraces the darkness instead of searching for the light.
Addiction touches the lives of tens of millions of Americans from all walks of life. Most of these people are good and decent people who make profound contributions to the society we live in. They are teachers, police officers, nurses, doctors, pastors, wives and husbands, sons and daughters, parents, and military service members. Addiction does not discriminate. Even the most religious and spiritual people can fall victim to the disease of addiction.
Having an addiction doesn’t make a person bad or morally deficient – it makes them addicted. It doesn’t make them weak or inferior – it makes them addicted. Being evil didn’t cause them to become addicted, their brain chemistry did. Addicted people aren’t bad people who should be punished. They are people who need help.
Addiction ss a Disease, not a Moral Deficiency
According to NIDA, addiction “is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain—they change its structure and how it works.” Someone who has developed a substance abuse problem (no matter what that substance is) is afflicted with the disease of addiction. It is not a matter of choice or morality – it’s a matter of biology.
It is important to understand that addiction is an illness. Addiction is not a choice or a lack of character. This may be difficult to accept. However; those who are addicted often feel comforted knowing they are sick (rather than “weak” or “bad”) people who can get help. Coming to terms with the reality of the disease is often what motivates people to get the treatment they so desperately need.
Many people who believe addiction is a choice or moral deficiency continue to battle with substance abuse because they believe they can get it under control with sheer willpower. This is simply not the case. Willpower alone will never conquer the disease of addiction. It is an illness that must be arrested with the help of trained addiction professionals who can treat the condition.
TRUTH: It Doesn’t Really Matter What You Believe – People Suffering From Addiction Need Help.
While the debate seems to remain on if addiction is a disease, one very serious fact remains present: more than 64,000 people died in 2017 from a drug overdose death. Whatever side of the topic you feel to be true, people are dying and in serious need of help.