The Disease of Addiction – Does Choice Play a Role?

disease of addiction - does choice play a role?People with a substance use disorder (drug addiction) may have control over what they are doing, taking and using but it doesn’t feel like it to the individual.  Men and women suffering from the disease of addiction are at high risk each day, in particular when they are using some of the more dangerous drugs such as heroin (dope), methamphetamine (meth), cocaine (powder), crack (hard), etc.  But while alcohol and marijuana for example, may not strike an individual as overly harmful in itself, the core disease of addiction is the same and even these substances possess problematic short and long-term effects.  But what role does choice play in addiction?  Is there hope for those suffering from the disease of addiction to stop using?

Are People Only Addicted to Drugs and Alcohol?

People can become addicted to anything – not just drugs or alcohol.  In reality, it may include virtually anything.  For example, one may become obsessed with seemingly harmless products, such as chocolate.  But people don’t typically consider it addiction unless the object of addiction is something overly harmful that’s causing significant physical, intellectual, relational or emotional problems.  Eating too much chocolate may cause weight gain or even diabetes.  But someone with an obsession to chocolate isn’t typically labeled an “addict”, even though they technically could be if it’s hitting the pleasure center of the brain the same way heroin would to a heroin addict.

Addition however, doesn’t just have to refer to something physical like substance use.  It can be behavioral such as gambling or even workaholism.   In the past, addiction used to refer just to psychoactive substances that cross the blood-brain barrier, temporarily altering the chemical balance of the brain; this would include alcohol, tobacco and some drugs. A considerable number of psychologists, other health care professionals and lay people now insist that psychological or behavioral obsession, as may be the case with gambling, sex, internet, work, exercise, etc. should also be counted as objects of addiction, because they can also lead to feelings of guilt, shame, hopelessness, despair, failure, rejection, anxiety and/or humiliation.

The Power of Addiction – Does it Take Away Choice?

When a person is addicted to something, they feel they cannot control how they use it and become reliant on it to cope with daily life. Many people use substances or become engaged in activities without any significant problems. Some people, however, may experience damaging psychological and/or physical effects when their habit becomes an addiction.

With a habit individuals are in control of their choices, with an addiction individuals feel completely out of control with their choices.

Addiction – there is a psychological/physical component; the person feels that they are unable to control the aspects of the addiction without help because of the mental or physical conditions involved.

Habit – it is done by choice. The person with the habit can choose to stop, and will subsequently stop successfully if they want to. The psychological/physical component is not an issue as it is with an addiction.

Addiction to substances or various activities can sometimes lead to serious problems at home, work, school and socially.
The causes of addiction vary considerably, and are not often fully understood. They are generally caused by a combination of physical, mental, circumstantial and emotional factors.

Addiction is often mistaken for dependency which often leads to tolerance – the dependent person needs larger and more regular amounts of whatever they are addicted to in order to receive the same effect. Often, the initial reward is no longer felt, and the addiction continues because withdrawal is so unpleasant.  See the Difference Between Addiction and Dependence for more information.

Making the Choice to Stop Using Drugs Can Free You From Addiction – How to Do it!

While the impulse and urges that addiction creates in the brain is not a choice, technically, individuals suffering from addiction can choose to stop using, even though it feels almost impossible.  Men may attempt to compare this to pulling out during sex right at the time an orgasm is starting, but in reality, it’s much more difficult than this.  But at the end of the day, there is help and those suffering don’t have to do this alone.  Recovery is possible because choices can be made even though it may feel like ripping your face off or cutting off your breathing for a period of time.  But despite the fear and the initial pain, those who get help the right way won’t die.  Instead, their lives will be much better and individuals will experience a freedom they’ve never known.

Need Addiction Treatment and Help?

Our online community helps men and women suffering from Substance Use Disorder, drug and heroin addiction who are sick and tired of being slaves and get the addiction help and treatment they want, need and deserve. For those ready for a chance, fill out our brief addiction treatment contact form. You can also call our drug rehab hotline at 215-857-5151.


Written by William Charles and Joann Miller, Owner and Publisher and Blogger for Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™, Heroin News, and the National Alliance of Addiction Treatment Centers (NAATC)

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