Is Addiction A Disease Or A Choice?
Although an ever-increasing amount of research now indicates that addiction is in fact a form of brain disorder rather than a conscious choice, many people still suffer from the stigma that is attached to drug or alcohol addiction. As with raising awareness that has come with mental health issues, there is no reason why addiction shouldn’t be viewed in the same way as any other chronic disease, such as diabetes or cancer.
Addiction is defined as not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you. And, according to UK charity Action on Addiction, one in three people is currently suffering from some form of addiction.
What Causes Addiction?
Addiction can begin for a number of reasons. Some forms of addiction affect the way we feel – both physically and mentally – such as in the case of alcohol, drugs and nicotine. Depending on the amount we consume, the feelings these substances produce can be enjoyable, encouraging us to use them again and again to achieve the same ‘high’.
Starving our bodies of these pleasurable feelings, meanwhile, can cause us to suffer withdrawal symptoms, including a general low mood, and even anxiety and depression in more serious cases. Because these symptoms can be unpleasant and difficult to deal with, addicts carry on using the substances, and thus the cycle continues.
As our bodies become used to certain substances, they build up a tolerance – meaning we require more and more to satisfy our cravings. This leads to a habit that can be very difficult, or even dangerous, to stop.
The physical and psychological strain of addiction can have serious consequences in everyday life – not just in terms of your own health, but also in areas such as family and relationships, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. The cycle of addiction is a disease and not a choice, which is key for people struggling with substance abuse and family members to understand.
Is Addiction A Choice?
Research has found that addiction can be genetic, but other factors, including spending time around other people suffering from addiction and certain environments, are also believed to increase the risk of developing an addiction yourself.
People suffering from addiction are often stigmatised as being irresponsible and reckless in their actions, however, more and more research is coming to light to indicate that addiction is not a choice, but rather a disease. Addiction is an illness and not a simple choice.
Addictive Behaviour Explained
These days, it’s understood that addiction as a disease is caused by a combination of behavioural, environmental and genetic factors. Research indicates that out of all of these factors, genetics is the most likely trigger of addiction.
As humans, our brains are programmed to seek out rewarding feelings caused by a chemical called dopamine. When dopamine is released into the neurotransmitters in our brain, we experience a feeling of general well-being and, in some cases, even euphoria.
Our brain remembers the triggers for the release of dopamine so that we will repeat the action time after time. Alcohol and drugs act as a dopamine trigger, and it’s for this reason that these substances become addictive.
One reason why people who are naturally predisposed to addiction become hooked on substances, to begin with, is the theory that they are generally born with a low number of dopamine receptors in the brain, meaning that they’re not able to experience natural levels of pleasure and so turn to other substances in a bid to increase the levels of dopamine flowing through their brain.
Different Types Of Addiction
When we think of addiction, the majority of us may associate the word with things such as drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, solvents and gambling, however, addiction takes on many forms and affects many more people than we would typically imagine. Other types of addiction, include:
With the rise of smartphones, tablets and high-speed broadband has come an ever-increasing reliance on internet-based activity. Whether at home, in the office, or on the move, people are spending more and more time each day playing games, watching movies and surfing the web, leading to serious issues such as sleeping problems and neglect in other areas of their lives – including work, relationships and family.
Shopping addiction is another form of behavioural addiction that often involves compulsive buying as a way to get a buzz and alleviate negative feelings associated with anxiety and depression. By buying things we don’t necessarily need or want, apart from the obvious financial implications, shopping addiction can also lead to feelings of shame, despair and guilt.
While we’ve all got to pay the bills, spending too much time working can lead to a number of mental and physical health issues, including physical exhaustion and depression, as well as alienating you from family life, relationships and social activities. If you find yourself in the office at the crack of dawn and not taking any holidays, then you could be addicted to work.
Overcoming Addiction is Your Choice
Regardless of whether or not you view addiction as a disease, overcoming addiction is very much a conscious choice. For most addicts, successful recovery is only possible if they commit to lifelong abstinence going forward – and this is something that can only be decided on by the individual. Whilst developing an addiction is not a choice, deciding to start the recovery journey is. Addiction is a disease which requires specialist treatment to overcome, which is where we can help.
The good news is, once you’ve committed to recovery there are a number of great support systems out there to help you on your journey to abstinence – whether it’s a close friend or family member willing to listen to you, an anonymous service such as the Samaritans, or a recovery centre such as our own.
We Are Here To Help at Ocean Recovery
If you are suffering from an addiction and need help and support, Ocean Recovery Centre offers dedicated private alcohol rehab and drug treatment that will allow you to get on the road to recovery. Combining comfort with an intensive programme of therapy, wellness activities and treatment, you will be given the support and medication that you require to safely detox. Although many people are unsure if addiction is a disease or a choice, it is important to know that it is a disease which requires treatment.
As well as our treatment programmes, we provide dedicated aftercare for up to twelve months so that once you have left the centre you are still able to receive any help and support that you may need.
John Gillen - Author - Last updated: September 28, 2023
John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.
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