Addiction is a complex disorder that most people still fail to understand. Scientific studies are focused on deciding whether addiction is a choice or a genuine disease. However, there is enough evidence now to support the claim that substance abuse disorder is in fact a disease and has nothing to do with an individual’s personal choice. And while people are beginning the cruciality of addiction and its treatment, there is still a societal pressure on those who are suffering.
Addicts are not accepted with good eyes by society and they are always viewed as individuals who have poor self-control and low self-esteem. People fail to understand that it is not going to help the patients and instead is going to make them feel a lot worse. Addiction is a difficult condition to be in, and they are already going through a lot. To degrade them any further is inadvertently making them feel bad about themselves.
Why The Disease vs Choice Debate?
To understand why there has been a long debate on whether addiction is a choice or disease, we must know what began the debate in the first place. People who suffer from addiction are dealing with a lifelong condition where the individual seeks drugs and other addictive substances. When society sees these addicts craving and misusing drugs, they develop a notion that it is the individual’s choice to use it or not, and that if they are using, they are a bad influence.
While the initial decision to consume drugs and/or alcohol is voluntary, the condition that follows is not under the control of the one who’s consuming. These addictive substances attack our brain’s chemical structure and promote the release of chemicals that are responsible for making us feel good. And since these feelings are very strong, the person craves the substance despite knowing that it can have adverse consequences. These ill-effects include cancer, chronic illnesses, organ failure, and even death in most cases.
The chemical changes that follow after drug use make it difficult for the individual to stop consuming. Repeated drug abuse can alter a person’s ability to make choices and resist the actions that are harmful to their body. It is at this stage that people start perceiving addicts as individuals with bad life choices. Also, addiction can happen to anyone. And although several factors contribute to substance abuse disorder including environmental factors, biological aspects, and more, the most common is genetics. Similarly, environmental factors can also push individuals into addiction.
Why Addiction Is Just Like Any Other Disease
When arguing about whether or not addiction is a choice, people are divided into three camps mainly, those who think addiction is a disease, those who think addiction is a choice, and those who think addiction is a disease influenced by choice. And while every group has its own set of explanations, it is evident from the existing proof that substance abuse disorder is a disease. Here are some reasons why it is so:
Addicts in recovery can relapse
There is a full-fledged treatment process for addiction and thousands of individuals undergo these curated procedures. The process is step-by-step and is specifically designed after evaluating the condition. So, the treatment process is different for every individual. Also, there is a very common component of the addiction treatment process which is known as relapse. This term means the patient in recovery goes back to using the substances again. However, if addiction was a choice in the first place, then the patients can again choose to stop using drugs. Why waste time on a treatment that lasts for months and even years to come?
The withdrawal symptoms
As mentioned above, patients who are seeking treatment have a good chance of relapsing during recovery. Likewise, almost all patients go through a painful period during the initial stage of the addiction treatment process. During this phase, the patient’s body reacts in the absence of drugs and causes extreme physical and mental troubles. These are known as withdrawal symptoms and can be pretty hard to bear. Now again, if people are making it up, and addiction is really just an ill-effect of bad life choices, then those suffering must never experience the painful symptoms. They could just make good choices and they will be clean again. But does that happen? Unfortunately, no. And that rules out the possibility of addiction being a product of bad choices.
It will take a few more researches to convince the masses that addiction is a disease and not a choice. However, one thing that is absolutely darn sure is that recovery from addiction is a choice. Once you are engulfed by addiction, it becomes your personal choice whether to keep abusing the substances or stop it all right there and live a life free of alcohol and drugs. Most people fear what others will think about knowing that they are suffering from addiction. Thanks to the long-existing stigma around addiction that has forced the suffering patients to pull back from accepting their condition.
This, in turn, causes the individuals to self-medicate using more drugs and go deeper into the web of addiction. To prevent this, proper medical attention is required against addiction. This may include inpatient treatment, where the patients are required to admit in rehabilitation facilities or other medical centers for a specified duration. For the outpatient treatment approach, patients are required to visit their therapist and attend other community meetups on a weekly or daily basis. Those suffering can schedule an appointment with the medical professional who can design a specially curated treatment plan to suit the patient’s condition.
There is a lot of stigmas and negative emotions one has to fight before even beginning their battle against addiction. Your friends, family, and loved ones are your support system in such cases, however, to decide whether or not to take that first step away from this disease, mentally is your choice. So, it doesn’t really matter what people think about how you got into addiction, what matters is how you fight back. Because if you don’t, then it is definitely a matter of choice.
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