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Is Addiction a Matter of Choice?

There has been an ongoing debate as to whether addiction is a disease or a matter of choice.  Many people do not believe in the disease model, instead thinking that people suffering from addiction are simply choosing to continue engaging in substance use. However, all scientific research points to the disease model of alcoholism and addiction as being correct.

The American Medical Association classified alcoholism as a disease in 1956 and classified addiction as a disease in 1987. Despite the support of the medical community, many people choose to believe that addiction is the result of bad choices or a lack of morality. The only choice one has in the matter is the initial decision to drink alcohol or take drugs. However, there are often underlying mental, physical, social, and genetic factors that influence the initial decision.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that once a person begins using substances, their “ability to exert self-control can become seriously impaired. Brain-imaging studies from people addicted to drugs show physical changes in areas of the brain that are critical for judgment, decision-making, learning, memory, and behavior control.” These brain changes firmly reflect the disease model of addiction.

Most people are not familiar with just how strong one’s addiction can become. People suffering from addiction entirely lose the power of choice as a result of the brain changes caused by substance use. They may believe that a person can recover if they simply had enough willpower. According to the NIDA’s Advancing Addiction Science, “In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to.”

Addiction and alcoholism are disease much in the same way that diabetes is a disease. The relapse rates of drug addiction (40-60%) mirror the relapse rates of diabetes (30-50%) and hypertension (50-70%). Much in the same way that a diabetic must continually manage their disease to keep symptoms from recurring, people suffering from addiction also must take daily steps to ensure that their symptoms do not return.

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