We see it every day, the banter back and forth of whether or not addiction is a choice or a disease.
The medical community widely accepts the brain disease model of addiction, and substance use disorder is listed in the DSM V, essentially explained as “patterns of symptoms resulting from the use of a substance that you continue to take, despite experiencing problems as a result”. Additionally, the brains of addicts have been proven to have a higher affinity to certain drugs, meaning the effects are much more rewarding to addicts than someone not prone to addiction.
12 step programs explain alcoholism/addiction with the “allergy” and “tri-fold disease” concept. Meaning that those with alcoholism/addiction react abnormally to ingesting mind/mood altering substances, much in the same way that hives are an abnormal reaction to eating peanuts. The “tri-fold disease” refers to the three aspects that make up addiction: allergy of the body, an obsession of the mind, a malady of the spirit.
A newer theory is that any type of addiction is simply learned behavior. Our bodies have a reward system called the limbic system. This reward system releases the “feel good chemical” dopamine when we do something beneficial to survival such as: have sex, make money or eat calorically dense foods. This was at one time helpful when these things were in short supply to our ancestors. However, in modern society, many of the things that make us feel good, are readily available and can harm us when done to excess. Drugs release dopamine as well. This theory states that it is simply human nature, and with enough repetition, those pathways strengthen overtime causing addiction.
To those that call addiction a choice, the argument generally boils down to: “it was the addicts choice to pick up the first one”. To that, I would ask: Who has not experienced a mood or mind-altering substance?
Is it a 12-year-old child’s “choice” to pick up the codeine cough syrup a doctor prescribes? Is it an 18-year-old college student’s choice to take Vicodin after having wisdom teeth removed? Should the 15-year old that took a hit of a joint, the same 15 years old we don’t give a driver’s license to, be doomed to a life of addiction? Does the woman in her early 30’s “deserve” to be addicted benzodiazepines, because she was prescribed a few valiums when she went through a difficult divorce? Do any of us know a single person who never had a can of beer, or partook in a toast with champagne?
We are all exposed to alcohol or drugs at some point in our lives. Some people end up addicted, others do not. Should the importance not be placed in getting those who suffer help, rather than finding where to place the blame?
REQUEST A CALL BACK