Drug and Alcohol Addiction: Choice or Disease?
The stigma of addiction is directly linked to the perception of people who have substance use disorders. Often people with addictions are labeled as weak, immoral, just want to have a good time, or don’t care. However, saying that addiction is any of these things is harmful and damaging.
The debate on whether addiction is a choice or a disease is still ongoing. But there are mounds of evidence that explain how addiction is not a choice rather a disease and disorder.
Calling something a choice is not an explanation – it’s a question. Why did someone make that choice? Why is quitting drinking so difficult?
The Canadian federal government defines alcoholism as a substance use disorder, a medical condition that requires treatment from health care professionals.
How a Person Develops Addiction
Alcoholism doesn’t just appear and disappear. It develops over time. It usually involves a preexisting risk factor that makes someone more susceptible to developing it if they drink alcohol.
Risk factors include:
- Prior history of behavioral or substance abuse
- Addiction of alcoholism in close family members
- Social awkwardness
- Neglect or abuse in childhood
Drinking more than five drinks for a man or seven drinks a week for a woman is defined as abusing alcohol. The abuse itself combined with the risk factors above can leave someone to be more tolerant of larger amounts of alcohol, creating a dependence on it to function normally. These risks apply to drug addictions as well.
The Science of Addiction
Much of the research behind addictions shows how the brain changes over time.
Studies explain that the chemical makeup in the brain, specifically the rational part of the brain shrinks. This is one reason that people with an addiction are not able to make rational and informed choices to stop taking the substance they are addicted to.
Many people who suffer from addiction use drugs and alcohol to tackle or diminish their mental health issues. Negative mental health issues cause people to self-medicate.
A person’s inability to stop using has to do with the damage caused in their brain. When the brain is deprived of the drugs it’s accustomed to, it reacts negatively.
Overcoming Addiction with Treatment
There is no easy fix to overcoming an addiction. Someone can’t just say no. The person needs to develop the ability to find other sources of joy. People who isolate themselves in order to feed their addiction may need to work on finding what makes them truly happy.
The process of recovery requires an absolute commitment to lifelong abstinence. People need personal treatment plans to understand why they have an addiction, where it is rooted from, and how to develop the necessary skills and tools to heal, connect with others, and recover.
If you want to begin your life in recovery, contact us today.