It can often seem as though addiction is a choice that people make. After all, didn’t they choose to do the substance or behavior that they’re now addicted to? Aren’t they choosing to continue using? But this is a simple view of something very complex. Many people try drugs or alcohol throughout their lives. But not everyone gets addicted. Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain—they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long-lasting and can lead to the harmful behaviors seen in people who abuse drugs.
The Nature of Addiction
Why do some people get addicted when others don’t? It can have to do with biological predisposition or environment. Often, addiction can be a symptom of a greater problem — alcohol may be a way to self-treat depression. Other times, it can be an issue with environment — if someone is raised in a household in which addiction is normalized, it may seem normal to them. Still other times, someone can simply be genetically predisposed to addiction. They may begin to feel the physical need to abuse substances more readily than others do.
Television shows, movies, and books — all of them frequently show characters who aren’t addicts drinking to forget something traumatic or steals their nerves for something particularly dangerous. Using alcohol and other substances as a coping mechanism is something that is normalized in our society. In addicts, however, a coping mechanism can lead to physical addiction.
The Reality of Addiction
Once someone is addicted, remaining addicted is most definitely not a choice. Consider all of the negative aspects of addiction — who would willingly choose these things? Addicts aren’t choosing to alienate friends, family members, and significant others; they aren’t choosing to lose their jobs or to lose their homes. That is the addiction that is making those choices.
Even gambling addicts eventually develop a physical dependency to their addiction. When they gamble, their brains flood with hormones. Eventually, they begin to rely upon this positive rush. As their lives begin to fall apart, this positive rush becomes all the more important.
Some substances can cause serious issues during withdrawal — even death. It’s not as simple as just going off of a drug or alcohol; it can be medically dangerous. When your body is telling you that you need something to live, just like air and water, it can be extremely difficult to defeat it.
Extremely difficult — but not completely impossible. With help, addicts can recover. However, it’s important that they have support. Follow My 12 Step Store to find out more.