Is Drug Addiction a Choice?

What is drug addiction?


Drug addiction is a condition affecting a person’s behavior that causes them to lose self-control and abuse legal or illegal substances.


For some people, drug addiction can begin as an experimental endeavor sparked by curiosity. They try the drug in recreational or social scenarios, and for some, they start using the substance they experimented on more often. For other people, drug addiction can begin when they are exposed to specific prescribed medication or are influenced by relatives or friends who have been prescribed medication.


Is drug addiction considered a disease?


The definition of drug addiction as a disease differs among people, medical professionals, and organizations. However, many medical associations such as the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the American Medical Association define it as a disease.


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) define drug addiction to be a long-term and relapsing condition where an individual relentlessly seeks and uses drugs despite the adverse consequences.


Drug addiction is also known as substance use disorder (SUD), wherein there is an unregulated use of a harmful substance. A person suffering from this disorder can function in their day-to-day lives impaired due to reliance on the substance they are abusing.


Why is drug addiction considered a disease?


Drug addiction is considered a disease because of three primary reasons:


1. Drug addiction involves changes in the functioning of the brain and body.


Substances like nicotine, alcohol, or illegal drugs alter how the brain and body react to situations that involve stress, rewards, and self-control.


2. Like other diseases, drug addiction causes a variety of biological, environmental, and psychological factors.


A lot of factors come into play when drug addiction is involved. However, genetics accounts for about half of the chance that a person will develop a drug addiction.


3. Untreated drug addiction can lead to serious consequences involving other physical and mental health conditions that can be debilitating and require strict medical attention.


The consequences and changes that drug addiction can cause are long-lasting and can remain even after the person has quit using substances.


Some people do not consider drug addiction a disease because drug abuse is ultimately a person’s choice. However, most experts believe that even though the experimental stage of drug addiction may be by choice, once continued abuse and addiction transformed the brain, the person begins to lose control of their behavior.

What causes drug addiction?


Many factors affect the likelihood of a person with drug addiction. These factors belong in four primary categories: psychological factors, biological factors, spiritual factors, and socio-cultural factors. Despite being distinct factors, all four connect, and each contributes to addiction.


1. Psychological Factors


Psychological research has helped determine that people tend to repeat behaviors when they expect a reward or benefit from it, even if the behavior is harmful. Such is the case with drug addiction: there is a perceived reward or “high” that is felt from the action even though it is harmful.


2. Biological Factors


The biological factors of drug addiction refer to the role that person’s genetics or physiology plays in the likelihood of that person developing addiction.


3. Socio-cultural Factors


The culture of the person influences his or her likelihood of developing an addiction. If their culture tolerates and accepts drug use, they are more vulnerable to developing a drug addiction. People can get harmful behavior from their social circles and family members.


4. Spiritual Factors


Spirituality is about a belief that life has a greater meaning and purpose. For some, the lack of spirituality can cause reckless behavior and the tendency to try harmful substances.


What makes drugs addictive?


Different drugs have different effects on the brain. However, a common denominator among most drugs is that their result is an experience that is pleasurable, stimulating, or relaxing. It gets to the point where it activates the brain’s reward system, which causes the person to go through the experience multiple times to receive that same gratification.


How does drug addiction change the brain?


Drugs cause a potent rush of dopamine in the brain. When a person who continually uses drugs overloads their brain receptors, the brain either reduces dopamine release or eliminates dopamine receptors. If the dopamine receptors are reduced, the amount of the drug it takes to get the same pleasurable feeling increases, causing the person to take more doses of the substance. This process feeds itself and makes addiction very hard to overcome.


Furthermore, there are changes to the brain’s structure in areas related to decision-making, learning, memory, and behavioral control.


What are the different kinds of addictive drugs?


As mentioned, different drugs have different effects on the body. Some, however, are more potent and more addicting than others. The substances that can be addicting are the following:


  • Cocaine

  • Alcohol

  • Marijuana

  • Hallucinogens

  • Amphetamines

  • Heroin

  • Prescription drugs


Even though prescription drugs are legal and medically prescribed, they can still be addicting and misused.


What are the signs of drug addiction?


Some symptoms that someone you or someone you know may be addicted to drugs are the following:

  • Intense cravings of the drug that tend to override other thoughts

  • Requiring more doses of the drug to get the same pleasurable effect

  • Irresponsibly using up finances to ensure there is a steady supply of the drug

  • Not meeting work obligations or cutting off social activities due to drug use

  • Breaking the law to obtain the drug such as stealing

  • Continue using the drug even when aware of its negative consequences

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms with the stop of drug use


Is addiction a choice?

Whether or not addiction is a choice is highly debatable as many factors contribute to a person’s likelihood of developing it. The first and experimental instances of drug use may be by choice. Still, past a certain point, when individuals no longer have conscious control of their behavior after they have frequently used a drug, it becomes a disease that needs treatment.


Can drug addiction be treated?


Like most diseases, drug addiction can be treated. Once diagnosed with substance use disorder, an individual may be subject to various treatment options such as:

  • Detoxification and withdrawal therapy

  • Behavioral therapy

  • Self-help groups


Make a choice against drug addiction


Drug addiction is a slippery slope that can ruin your life if left unchecked. Fortunately, it is always never too late. If you or someone you know is experiencing drug addiction, Recovery Blvd is here to provide you with high-quality professional services aimed at rehabilitation, detoxification, and curbing addiction progression.


Some of our programs and therapies include:

  1. Advanced Relapse Prevention

  2. Substance Abuse Counseling

  3. Recovery Crossfit


With the appropriate support, and the proper guidance and treatment, you can be free from drug addiction and enjoy the fullness of life.


If you would like to know more about Recovery Blvd, please call us at (866) 231-3007. You can also visit our drug rehab center in Portland at 1316 SE 12th Avenue, Portland, OR 97214, to book an appointment.


Disclaimer: This post serves a strictly educational use. It does not necessarily reflect the services, products, or therapeutic approaches of this establishment or its healthcare practitioners. The purpose of this blog is not to advertise the products, services, or therapeutic approaches of any other establishment that may be associated with this site. On the subject of safe or legal services, products, and appropriate therapies, recommendations ought to be given by a qualified professional on a case-to-case basis.


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