Is Addiction a Disease or a Choice?

Addiction is a disease, not a choice. There’s a thoroughly misguidedly stigma that those who are addicted have the ability to stop at any moment. This is simply untrue, as substance abuse physically and chemically alters the brain. Below, we’ll better clarify why addiction is a disease, not just a choice.

If you or your loved one need a safe space to recover from addiction, contact Myrtle Beach Recovery to learn more about our short- and long-term recovery programs.

Why Addiction Is a Considered a Disease

Most medical associations classify addiction as a disease due to the following factors:

  • Genetics affect your risk of addiction
  • Addiction is caused by a combination of biological, environmental, and behavioral factors, just like many other diseases
  • Addiction physically alters your brain and body
  • If left untreated, addiction causes a variety of other health issues, some of which are life-threatening

How Addiction Affects the Brain

Dopamine is a natural chemical that causes feelings of pleasure. Your brain usually releases dopamine after exercising, eating a meal, and participating in activities that you enjoy.

When you use a drug, it causes your brain to release a large amount of dopamine—much more than your brain would naturally produce. The more that you use the drug, the more that your brain relies on the drug to produce “normal” levels of dopamine even when you’re not using. The lack of dopamine is what creates feelings of anxiety, nausea, depression, fatigue, and more in those who are addicted but are not on the drug.

But it doesn’t end there. After continued use, your brain craves the drug and requires more of the substance in order to get the same euphoric effect it produces. In essence, your brain builds up a tolerance. Continually increasing the dosage of the drug is extremely dangerous, and can often lead to an accidental overdose. However, at this point, your brain is likely so chemically altered that you are unable to tell that you need to stop. Or, even if you realize that you have a problem, you may not be able to physically make yourself stop.

At First, You Have a Choice

People become addicted over time. When a person first decides to use a substance, it’s certainly a conscious choice. However, it becomes an addiction once the brain has been changed by recurring use. At this point, willpower and judgment become impaired.

The time it takes for a person’s brain to experience physical changes due to drug use depends on their genetics and the type of drug. That means some people can become addicted after just a few uses, while others may become addicted after several more uses.

Contact Myrtle Beach Recovery

As you’ve learned, addiction truly is a disease, not just a choice. If you believe you might be addicted, don’t hesitate to reach out to Myrtle Beach Recovery today. We offer short-term and long-term recovery programs, providing a safe place to work through the 12 Steps.

Contact us today to find out how we can help you on your path to sobriety.