Drug Abuse Counseling: Addiction Choice or No Choice
By Ned Wicker
People are said to become drug addicts by choice. That is, they chose to take the drugs and therefore are responsible for any negative side effects they may experience. If you go to anyone’s high school yearbook and start reading the comments on each student, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that indicates their life’s ambition is to be addicted.
People don’t set out to live a life of misery and destruction, or consciously decide one day to end relationships by abusing themselves and cutting off the world from their life. They don’t get up one morning and think through all of the ramifications of drug use, clearly working through those important personal relationships, professional aspirations and hopes of a fulfilling life. It isn’t really a choice.
Alcoholics talk about experiencing “the click” when they have that first drink. It’s the first of many, as they drink more and more to relive that experience, just to feel good for a moment. Addicts fall into addiction after that first “high” and experiencing the intense desire to “feel that way” again.
We read stories about people who are “hooked” as soon as they take the first drink, or the first hit of cocaine. For them addiction is instantaneous, while for others it’s a process over time. Everyone is different, so there is no real way of explaining it other than understanding that we are all unique and the drug will affect each of us differently.
I suppose the choice is choosing to take the first drink or the first hit. We do this for a variety of reasons. Some want to party and be a part of the crowd, while others are curious and want to experience something new. Others may try drugs or alcohol because they are told not to, while others still may just want to feel better.
Nobody chooses to be an addict. We want to feel good. We want to get high. But along the way something happens. We lose control and soon the recreational activity turns into a demand as the drug takes over our lives. As the drug takes over, our ability to reason, our ability to distinguish right from wrong, our ability to feel anything outside of ourselves is lost in the never-ending cycle of up and down, the daily need to take the edge off and escape the reality of a life being thrown away.
Some view addiction as a disease, some view it as a condition or a problem. Some view it as strictly psychological, while others see it as medical. But it is not a choice, even for those who are desperately self-loathing. Abusing drugs is a bad choice, but it is not made for the purpose of becoming addicted. The turmoil of addiction, the crashing wave of body, mind and spirit against the rocks develops and perpetuates even without the user knowing it.
Research on addiction has rendered solid results that point to a disease model. According to Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “As a result of scientific research, we know that addiction is a disease that affects both brain and behavior. We have identified many of the biological and environmental factors and are beginning to search for the genetic variations that contribute to the development and progression of the disease.
Scientists use this knowledge to develop effective prevention and treatment approaches that reduce the toll drug abuse takes on individuals, families, and communities. Despite these advances, many people today do not understand why individuals become addicted to drugs or how drugs change the brain to foster compulsive drug abuse.”
If addiction is a choice, it is a choice affected by the drug. A variety of factors come together and addiction sets in, so it is counter intuitive to assume that given the absence of a drug, the person would chose to be addicted. A more logical argument for choice would be suicide.
People make the decision to die and aggressively take their own life. People argue that their life is their own and they have the right to end it. They are unhappy, or they are in pain, or they see no purpose in continuing, so they kill themselves. Addicts are not trying to kill themselves. I would argue quite the contrary, they are trying to get better or just get by. The addiction causes their reasoning to falter, and many addicts deny they have a problem, or deny that they are going to eventually kill themselves, but their death is not necessarily a top of mind issue.
Maybe I can choose to abuse drugs and blame it on God. I show God how wrong he is by destroying my self while he watches. Actually, while the fact of being angry with God is understandable, the idea of choosing a prolonged and emotionally painful path is not what the addict had in mind.
I would argue the opposite. I choose to ignore God, cut him out of my life in favor of escaping through drug use. I reason that there is no God, or that God is distant and uninvolved, or that God does not care, or that God hate me, so I medicate through the use of drugs. Being a child of the 1960’s, I remember the notion of getting high to experience God. That’s a choice, but not for the purpose of becoming an addict.
If addiction were a choice, I would assert that addicts do not deserve treatment, because they choose to break the law, they choose to drain society and they choose to perpetuate the problem. Out of self-preservation, I would choose to put them away. But addiction is not a choice; it’s a part of the human condition.
Why one person can take a drink and never become an alcoholic, or another person can try cocaine and not become addicted, while others try it once and are hooked, is really beyond my understanding.
Because addiction part of the human condition, a disease, I feel compassion towards those who suffer from it, as I feel for those who suffer the afflictions of any disease. They did not choose this, but it happened. There may have been bad choices along the way, but they certainly did not wish addiction to be the result.
Drinking Problem or Addiction? Do you need Drug Abuse Counseling?
Drug and/or alcohol addiction is a chronic disease affecting the brain, and just about everyone is different. Drugs/alcohol affect different people in different ways. One person can take and abuse drugs, yet never become addicted, while another merely has one experience and is immediately hooked. Drug addiction is characterized by a person having to use the drug(s) repeatedly, regardless of the damage it does to:
- Their health
- Their family
- Their career
- Their relationships with friends and the community
Addiction is not limited to drugs and alcohol. People can be addicted to many things, such as food, gambling, shopping, or most anything that gets in the way of a healthy lifestyle. When things get out of hand, and people behave compulsively, regardless of the consequences.
When the person is no longer in charge of their life, regardless of the triggering mechanism, they are addicted. The addiction can take over a person’s entire life. Nothing else matters.
Is there a cure?
The first question many people have addiction is simply “Is there a cure?” The answer is, sadly, no, once you HAVE to use a drug you will always be addicted to it. There is currently no pill you can take to remove your cocaine addiction. In order to get a more complete understanding of why there is no cure, you first have to take a deeper look at addiction to learn how to live with it.
What's the difference between Drug Abuse and Drug Addiction?
The next quest tion generally ask is how can I tell drug abuse from drug addiction. That's a little more complicated:
Click here to learn the differences between drug abuse and drug addiction.
Drug and/or alcohol addiction is a disease of the mind body and SPIRIT
Let’s establish one important point of understanding Alcoholism. We are body, mind and spirit, and because of that, drug addiction is as much a disease of the spirit as it is of the body and mind. Unlike other chronic diseases, like diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, the spiritual component of drug addiction will play a major role in a person’s recovery.
- Personality contributes to drug and/or alcohol addiction.
- Peer pressure is huge, both for teenagers and adults alike.
Drug and/or alcohol addiction occurs when the pathways in the brain, the brain’s communication system, are altered by repeated use of a substance. Some of the brain’s nerve cells, called neurons, use chemicals called neurotransmitters, which are released into the gaps, called synapses, between nerve cells.
Take it to an extreme. There is normal brain chemistry activity, but when that activity is affected by the drug, the internal communication is altered, creating an otherwise abnormal affect.
If you were to abuse the pain medication by going way over the prescribed limit and frequency, because you need that drug, you are becoming addicted.
Addiction is a chronic condition, making the chances for relapse great. The drug takes over and the person loses control and will do anything to get the drug, regardless of the consequences.
What might have started as a decision to use the drug for a proper, medical purpose now becomes a spiraling, out-of-control experience for the user. Otherwise intelligent, rational people lose their ability to make good decisions.
The drug has taken over.
Addiction causes permanent changes in brain chemistry
Because of the change in the brain’s chemistry and function, it’s very difficult for people who are addicted to stop using; that's what is so difficult Alcoholism.
Treatment centers around the country have found that a combination of medications, along with behavioral therapy is the most effective way of helping the patient manage the disease.
Drug Abuse Counseling will tailor-made a program to meet the needs of patients seeking help. We are body, mind and spirit. Medicine can effectively treat the body and the mind, but medicine alone does not treat the spirit.
Relapse is common even if you're in Drug Abuse Counseling
Are there going to be setbacks? Yes. Human beings make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean a person can’t get back on course.
People who relapse need to be reinstated to a program, to get back to sanity and allow therapists to make necessary adjustments to their meds, or seek help in making modifications to their lifestyle. Perhaps an alternative treatment is called for. Again, everyone is different, and so treatment programs must meet the needs of the individual. The more you understand addiction the more you realize why it is so difficult to treat.
Are Abuse and Addiction the Same Thing?
No. Understand that abuse and addiction are not the same, because not all people who take drugs become addicted. The most commonly used drug is alcohol, and Alcohol, like drug addiction, progresses in stages, as a person descends into drug or alcohol dependence, hits bottom, then ascends back up to good health. It’s a process.
Not everybody that uses drugs is on the path to becoming an addict. Some people can abuse drugs, but not become addicted, while others try drugs or alcohol once and are immediately hooked.
Alcoholics talk about the “click,” that experience of satisfaction when taking the first drink. Drug users experience a “high” or a kind of euphoria. In either case, they want to feel good, and the drugs make them feel good. But it gets out of hand.
What are the signs of drug abuse or drug addiction?
The symptoms vary. Perhaps it’s just trying something with friends at a party, or maybe a person hurts and they want to numb the pain.
It can start most any way, and some drugs are more addictive than others, but once the progression reaches the point where a person needs the drugs because of a physical dependence and compulsively works to get them, regardless of the impact on their friends and family, their job and their community, that person’s life is out of control.
Drug and alcohol addition don't discriminate. It affects men and women of all ages; seniors, career-aged, young adults, teenagers and even children. The affects of drug and Alcohol impact all of society.