Disease vs Choice

When someone is suffering from addiction, it can be very easy for those around them to wonder how it happened. How could this person choose to drink so much, despite the consequences? How can he/she possibly choose to pick up heroin for the first time? Why do they act the way that they do or say the things they say while they are high? Are they a failure?

In addition, when someone is in the throes of addiction, it can be very confusing to realize how they got to where they are. How did I let it get this far? Am I a bad person? Why have I made these choices? Why can’t I stop, even though I am hurting people around me and suffering major consequences? Am I a failure?

The stigma of addiction is such that people tend to judge the addict, seeing them as a person of low moral standards, rather than someone who is suffering and needs help. People suffering from addiction can also think these things about themselves, which causes severe depression and a hesitation to reach out for help in fear of being judged.

The Brain With Addiction

If it is the choice of the person suffering from addiction to pick up a substance in the first place, then how can they be suffering from a disease? This is the question that many loved ones of people suffering from addiction, as well as addicts alike, will ask. The answer is: while it is initially someone’s choice whether or not to start drinking alcohol or using a substance, it is not their choice as to how exactly their brain will respond.

Many people are able to drink casually or use drugs recreationally without a person with substance use disorderion forming. However, there are millions of people who do develop a person with substance use disorderion. This is because some people’s brains can become completely rewired to require a substance, while others do not. Is it due to a disease, or failure?

The reward system of the brain gets set into overdrive, causing the extremely high release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters according to PsychologyToday.com. With repeated drug use, the reward system of the brain becomes subservient to the need for the drug. Simply put: addiction affects the chemistry of the brain, making it physically impossible to choose to quit without dedicated efforts and, in some cases, a complete lifestyle change.

Do Addicts Have Free Will?

“Why don’t you just quit using?” is something that people suffering from addiction hear – or tell themselves – over and over again. One of the major hallmarks of substance addiction is not being able to control, slow down or stop their use. The belief that addiction is a disease is based on this thought that it begins early, advances gradually, and can eventually become fatal.

Of course, you did not choose to become a person with substance use disorder. Nobody does. However, for some reason, your choices have led you to where you are. You had free will as to whether or not you wanted to use drugs or drink for the first time. It does not make you a failure. But, did you have control over those actions?

Environmental Factors

People begin using for many different reasons. For alcohol, it is very easy to become addicted due to its prevalence. It is a legal, celebrated part of society. Choosing to drink for the first time is usually not given a second thought, and is actually seen as a huge milestone in someone’s life. How someone’s body reacts to alcohol is where addiction may or may not eventually come into play.

When it comes to drugs, there can be the same prevalence in many communities as alcohol. The normalization of drugs can happen when someone is brought up in a household or community surrounded by it. People can fall into it by partying too much or “hanging out with the wrong crowd”. People can fall into it by taking medication for anxiety, an injury or surgery recovery.

Finding the Root Cause

At the end of the day, the decision to use substances stems from a root cause in someone’s life. People are seeking an escape, something to help make them feel better or are mimicking negative coping skills that they learned early in life. In order to truly recover from addiction, people suffering from addiction need to tackle this root cause. Quitting their use is only one step of recovery. If the root cause goes unaddressed, the addiction will eventually come back around.

Root causes of addiction can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mental health disorders
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • History of sexual, emotional or physical abuse
  • Family history of addiction

There are so many possible root causes of addiction, and since addiction knows no bounds they can be either diagnosed or undiagnosed. Many people with mental health disorders choose to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. They can also be well-intentioned in medicating their disorders, and fall into addiction because of the addictive nature of their medication.

About Cliffside Malibu

Addiction recovery is much more than just simply quitting. You are not a failure for not being able to quit on your own. It takes hard work – physically and emotionally- and a dedication to a new lifestyle. These things are difficult to do alone. We are here to help give you a new life free of addiction.

Each patient is then matched with one of these five stages of the Transtheoretical Model: Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action and Maintenance. An individualized treatment plan is created based on their current stage of change. This process is in place to ensure that all our patients receive the best treatment path possible for their own specific need. Our goal is to move individuals through their treatment by assessing their readiness for change and formulating stage-matched interventions in order to move them through their respective stage.

It is the policy of Cliffside Malibu to ensure that all individuals who present with chemical dependency issues are assessed for the appropriate level of care. We strive to provide continuum of care including medically supervised detox, residential treatment, day treatment and outpatient services. Services are provided to individuals with a primary diagnosis of substance abuse and/or alcohol addiction. Individuals seeking treatment are assessed by qualified staff to ensure program criteria are met and that each individual admitted is placed in the appropriate level of care for treatment. The program is designed and structured for individuals who are in need of a supportive environment in order to maintain Sobriety.

For more information on Cliffside Malibu, visit cliffsidemalibu.com