Addiction is a choice?

Addiction is a highly stigmatized mental health disorder.  If asked why they judge addicts so harshly, many people would say that it’s because addiction is a choice. Many believe that people choose to take drugs or alcohol but do they really? Modern psychology and medicine do not agree with this idea, at least, not entirely.

Addiction has an element of choice, sure. The person has to try the alcohol or the drugs, for example. But as the problem continues, it becomes  much less associated with choice and much more associated with changes in the brain. Besides, genetic and environmental factors play a significant role in the development of addiction. People with a family history of addiction are more likely to have a different reaction the first time they try alcohol or drugs, which makes them more prone to addiction. Those who live in an environment that lacks opportunities, stimulation, and security are also more likely to develop an addiction. This means that this is not purely the choice of the individual, but something strongly influenced by their environment and genetics.

As people begin to use a substance, they experience specific changes in their brain. Many drugs, like heroin or cocaine, essentially hijack core neurological systems and change the way in which the brain operates. With further use, the  drug becomes a part of the body’s metabolism, and the consequences of quitting might make it difficult to stop. As an addiction continues, the degree to which the individual chooses to be addicted becomes more and more limited as other factors come into play.

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