Addiction issues are far more acknowledged as an issue today than in any other point of modern history – yet with that widespread acknowledgement comes misinformation, and misunderstanding. Some people believe addiction issues to be a moral issue. They see addicts as a moral threat to society, and they see addiction issues as a matter of choice.
The truth is not that clear-cut. Addicts are people, and they’re people with a problem. This problem is a medical one – addiction is a disease, and treating it will take time and takes a lot of effort. However, while we are still perplexed by many of the scientific details surrounding the exact mechanisms behind addiction, and the consequences of long-term substance abuse for different substances, as well as the neurological nature of sobriety in the long run, there is one thing we know without a doubt:
No one chooses to be an addict. Everyone who is struggling with their addiction issues and isn’t in denial of their addiction in the first place would agree that they would much rather live without it. And if it were a choice, then quitting would be much, much, much easier.
It’s important to educate each other on addiction rather than make an argument without more in-depth explanation as to why certain that argument beats the assertion that addiction is a moral issue rather than a medical or psychological one. So, let’s delve deeper into why getting addicted never was and never will be a question of choice.
Drug Use is a Choice
Drugs exist in many forms. If we take the definition of a psychoactive substance, then anything from coffee to Tylenol to heroin is a drug. If we stick to what is provably addictive, then we must seriously consider the existence of fat and sugar dependencies.
Yet generally when people speak out about drugs, they mean illicit drugs and alcohol. Narcotics such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and illegally obtained prescription medication. And it’s true – to get started on the path towards substance abuse, you must begin with substance use. But a hit of cocaine does not make you an addict, nor does it make you a bad person. It makes you someone about to go through a high.
The high is what makes drugs so dangerous. The high is addictive, and depending on several factors – your genetics, your mental state, your age and even your gender – that high could get to you. And after a few highs too many, dependence kicks in. This is where addiction truly gets started.
Addiction Issues and Dependence
Addiction could most easily be described as a corruption of your brain’s understanding of pleasure. Instead of having a normal relationship to pleasure, someone going through addiction issues has a very messed up relationship with pleasure. Their brain no longer properly perceives pleasure, and numbs out anything that isn’t quite as powerful as a high.
Furthermore, when an addictive substance like cocaine is ingested repeatedly, the body develops a tolerance and subsequently a dependence.
First, the body makes it harder for the drug to take effect – leading to higher quantities of it in the bloodstream as you increase the dosage for the same high. This is tolerance.
Then, the body begins to have trouble performing certain functions without the presence of drugs in the system. This is dependence and withdrawal.
The mechanisms of tolerance make addictive drugs extremely dangerous due to the risk of overdose, as well. Stimulants can lead to coronary and respiratory failure through a heart attack and bronchospasm, while opiates can cause you to stop breathing and choke to death while passed out.
Furthermore, many street drugs are cut with other drugs or unknown substances to cheapen the product – depending on what was used to cut the product, sometimes it’s far easier to overdose than other times.
We’ve spoken about dependence, but people can become emotionally attached to drugs as well. For one, as you take more and more, it becomes harder for your brain to find a good reason to stop. However, if emotional problems were the reason you started using in the first place, then overcoming your addiction issues would mean overcoming those emotions as well.
You cannot simply treat the addiction and leave the underlying cause aside. Abuse, family problems, failed relationships and unresolved grief are just a few of the many reasons some people turn to alcohol excessively, or any drug. However, drugs are not a good solution to emotional problems. In fact, they make things worse by not giving you the opportunity to feel what you need to feel, and work through your negative thoughts and emotions.
Yes, Addiction Issues Can Be Beat
No matter what substance you are struggling with, there is a treatment plan for you. Our modern day understanding of addiction issues is that they can always be beaten – it’s a matter of time, and it’s a race between sobriety and an overdose. But that does not ever make it easy. Given how high relapse rates often are, and given the reputation some drugs have as creating an untreatable addiction, it’s easy to see how some people might never have a chance at getting better – but the truth is that everyone can get better.
Yes, addiction issues are not a choice, so a person can’t simply choose not to be addicted anymore. However, a person can choose to seek out help, find a professional therapist or attend a sober living community to get better and stay sober.
Stopping an addiction does not become easy just because you choose to do it, but you must choose it. And every single day, you must make that choice again. Some days the choice is taken away from you, but if you make it every chance you get, you’ll eventually come to the point where you can safely say that you’ve regained control over your life, and that that substance that ruined you no longer runs the show. even if the going is tough, a Los Angeles sober living community can help a great deal with stopping an addiction for good.
What isn’t okay is giving up. And if you don’t give up, any relapses you come across will be mere speed bumps in the long run.