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Is Addiction a Choice?

There is a great amount of debate over whether addiction is truly a disease or if it is a choice. Anyone who has suffered from addiction, however, can testify that they had lost all choice in the matter. Addiction causes significant changes to the brain’s reward system resulting in compulsive behavior that nullifies any possibility of choice in the matter.

Choice may exist at a certain point in our drinking and drug-using careers. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous explains, “In a vague way their families and friends sense that these drinkers are abnormal, but everybody hopefully awaits the day when the sufferer will rouse himself from his lethargy and assert his power of will. The tragic truth is that if the man be a real alcoholic, the happy day may never arrive. He has lost control. At a certain point in the drinking of every alcoholic, he passes into a state where the most powerful desire to stop drinking is of absolutely no avail. This tragic situation has already arrived in practically every case long before it is suspected.” There is no exact moment when drinking and drug use turn into alcoholism and addiction, but every sufferer comes to realize that, at some point, no matter how hard they try to remain sober, their desire and willpower are simply not sufficient.

The argument that addiction is a choice is based on the logic that if we had never chosen to take the first drink or drug, we would not have progressed to a point of addiction. However, the National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, “Moreover, even the ‘freely willed’ first choice to take a drug cannot be the basis for judgment and stigma against people suffering from addictions. Matters of choice and lifestyle—what you eat, how active you are, where you live—may contribute to the risk for, or even directly cause, a wide range of medical conditions, including chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and several cancers. We do not withhold or impede treatment of people suffering from those conditions, even if their health may have turned out differently had they made different choices at various points in their lives.” Regardless of the catalyst for the progression of addiction, we reach a point where our free-will, determination, and desire to stop using are not enough and we must seek treatment. The NIDA further explains, “once addiction is established, the sufferer from this disease cannot will themselves to be healthy and avoid drugs any more than a person with heart disease can will their heart back to perfect functioning, or a person with diabetes can will their body’s insulin response to return to normal.”

Your life doesn’t have to be held back by the chains of addiction. You can make the courageous decision to seek help now and begin building a brighter future in sobriety. Resilient House, located in beautiful Shreveport, Louisiana, offers a high quality and stress-free residential treatment program that includes medically-supported detoxification, maintenance care, individual therapies, counseling (including family therapy), and plans to help clients build life skills that will help them after discharge. For more information about treatment options, please call today: (833) 242-6431