Addiction is a mysterious and misunderstood epidemic, but it is neither a disease nor a choice. In reality, addiction is both a mental illness and a chronic physical condition.
The brain becomes wired to seek out addictive substances and use them in larger quantities over time. Eventually, so much of the substance activates the pleasure centers of the brain that without it, we feel an uncontrollable compulsion.
Why Addiction is not a Disease
The basic definition of a disease is a serious health condition that affects the body. The most common definition of addiction is: “repeatedly using a substance or engaging in an activity to such an extent that it causes problems in someone’s life.” Therefore, some might argue that addiction is a disease. However, if you examine the definition closer, you can see several reasons why it is not. First, diseases usually have an objective physical component to them. Second, most diseases have one primary cause. And third, people typically want to get rid of their diseases and try to live healthy lifestyles.
On the other hand, addiction does not have an objective physical component. Many factors cause it, and in most cases, many underlying mental illnesses are at play. For example, sleep deprivation and stress can be just as addictive as drugs. Also, most addicts are not in it to get better. They do not want to be “cured” and do not know what that would even mean. Afflicted individuals typically have a huge sense of denial about their behaviors. This is especially true if the substance or activity has been a part of someone’s life for a long time. If you look at it as an addiction problem, you will need to consider it a chronic condition. Chronic conditions are more challenging to treat than acute diseases because they do not have any black-and-white path ahead of them.
In summary, addiction is a chronic mental illness, not a disease.
Why Addiction is not a Choice
Choice is a very relevant and essential concept to understand regarding addiction. One of the most critical things to remember about addiction is that it has no choice. The brain becomes wired to seek out addictive substances and use them in larger quantities over time. Without these substances, addicts would not feel the urge they feel without them. Therefore, without drugs, addicts would be unable to function normally or function at all. Their brains become dependent on the substance, so addicts can no longer function normally. Some psychological changes also come about from an addiction disorder.
For example, addictions usually lead people to become more impulsive over time. They also tend to be less tolerant of discomfort, and they often have trouble thinking clearly. These symptoms eventually lead them to face life-changing consequences like jail time or death. Thus, addiction is not a choice made by a rational person. Addicts have no idea why they are using it, and if they did, they would not be able to stop. Addicts would rather die than live without their addiction. No one chooses to be addicted, which is one of the most important things for anyone who cares about a loved one with a substance abuse problem to remember.
How to Tell You are an Addict
You can tell if you are an addict to drug use through the following signs:
- Needing more and more to feel normal
- Trying to stop using, with no success
- Lying about how much you use or where you get your drugs
- Embarrassment around substance use. This can happen in front of others or yourself.
Finally, a much more severe and complicated symptom of addiction is blacking out. When someone blacks out from using, they are not fully conscious or aware of their surroundings. For example, some people don’t know what they did under the influence. They can’t remember their actions or conversations with others. The last thing someone remembers is taking the drug just before passing.
Call Us Today
Counseling and psychotherapy are often the best way to get over the issue of addiction. Contact us today if you or a loved one needs help with substance abuse. We will assess your situation and provide effective treatment plans to you or your loved ones. If you are ready to get started, call us today at 614-705-0611.