Is Drug Addiction Disease or Choice?
How can it be a disease if you bring it on yourself? There is a world of opinion about whether a person becomes an addict/alcoholic by choice, or if they contract the disease of addiction/alcoholism through no fault of their own. Maybe it is a chicken and egg issue, but either way, addiction is not something anyone asks for or puts on their list of aspirations.
We believe addiction/alcoholism is a disease of the brain, triggered when a substance is introduced and fires neuro receptors. It’s like a crouching tiger, waiting in the tall grass for some prey to come along. Obviously, without the prey, the tiger goes hungry. Without the substance, addiction does not occur.
But why can one person use a substance, even repeatedly, yet
never become addicted, while another person tries it once and their life goes
astray? Everyone is different and so everyone reacts differently to any drug. Is drug addiction disease or choice, it starts as a choice but quickly turns into a disease.
There are consequences
When a person makes a choice there are consequences, good and bad. Our lives are an endless succession of choices, from what food to eat, to how to make a living, to what car to drive. A person has to make a choice to use a substance, whether that choice is prompted by a medical need, or that choice is just a matter of wanting to have a good time.
We don’t necessarily think all the way through that choice, and certainly if someone knows they are going to become seriously ill, or addicted, or if their lives will be negatively impacted, their choice might be different. But as it stands, people who have become addicted really do not understand the ramifications of their choices. Life sometimes has a cruel twist of fate, and addiction/alcoholism has its own—that is one person can use a substance, even repeatedly, and never become addicted, while another uses just once and is hooked.
It hardly seems fair, but it’s the truth. You can spew on about a weakness of
character, and certainly that might play a part, but the fact is if a person is
predisposed to addiction and the substance is introduced, the clock starts
ticking and the fuse is lit. The drug addiction disease is started.
Drug Addiction Disease or Choice an interesting topic
Choice is an interesting topic when it comes to the addict/alcoholic. As the disease progresses their ability to choose diminishes. A desire to drink, for example, turns into the need to drink. The enjoyment of a cocaine high turns into intense cravings that drive the person to make choices he otherwise would not make just to get the drug. Even years after treatment, the coke addict still craves the drug.
He has choice, but it’s difficult. An alcoholic may not take a drink for years, but he/she is just a “dry drunk” because all it takes is one drink and they are right back on that old path again. It isn’t fair and sadly there is no cure.
Choice versus will power
Choice and will power are another point of contention. There are a lot of people who want to quit smoking and they have will power, but they can’t quit. Addicts rarely are successful applying sheer will power to their situation.
They can go “cold turkey” and try to tough it out, but without treatment, or a support system, they usually fail. Alcoholics who are able to drink a quart or more a day of liquor are in jeopardy of dying if they go off their booze with no medical intervention. Drug addicts can go through a nasty withdrawal and are not likely to die, but alcoholics are tempting fate and medical detoxification is more than necessary, it’s life-saving.
Let treatment be the choice
If there is a choice that has to be made, let that choice be made for treatment. Usually any choice an addict/alcoholic makes is a bad one, so they often need a strong hand to help them make the right choice.
When the disease is in full bloom, they only choice the addict/alcoholic is capable of making will be to use their drug of choice. Logic and rational thinking don’t enter into it. Unfortunately people have the right to make choices, no matter of sick they are and no matter how risky the wrong decision might be.
That’s why people walk out of treatment centers—they don’t think they need help. They don’t like to follow the rules. The disease makes the choices, not the person. How else can you explain the propensity of people to take huge health risks and throw away happiness, a career, family and a productive life. Maybe you think they’re crazy, or maybe because of the disease they have been made crazy.
Choice really isn’t a choice
In the case of addiction, choice really isn’t choice at all. Addict/alcoholics have to use, because they have no choice. Otherwise the person with five DUI’s on their record would not get behind the wheel of a car when they are impaired.
They don’t want to get into an accident, or worse yet become a murderer, but that is the severely impaired choice they have made. They do drive, regardless of the law, regardless of court orders, regardless of any dire consequences. They don’t successfully complete treatment and they repeatedly violate the law, not just the civil law, but moral law. Civil law says we should lock them up and throw away the key. Moral law says try to treat their drug addiction disease and help them.
No one WANTS to be a drug addict
Nobody wants to be an addict/alcoholic. You don’t see that written in a high school yearbook, “Hoping to become an addict and live a life of misery.” It can be said that addiction/alcoholism began with a choice to use the substance, but nobody chooses to fall into the grips of the disease and suffer the way so many people suffer.
Following the disease model, we encourage treatment and follow-up in a good recovery program to help treat the drug addiction disease.