Addiction Is Not a Choice
Unfortunately, there is still a stigma surrounding people who struggle with addiction. Friends and loved ones who do not understand the complexities of addiction often tell those who struggle with it that they chose it. However, this is not true. It is important to remember that addiction is not a choice. Addiction is a disease and it’s one that no one chooses to struggle with.
Why Addiction Is Not Chosen
To better understand addiction, it helps to understand how it relates to our brains. Dopamine (1) is a chemical that the brain naturally produces, and research shows that it causes us to seek rewards. Because of this, all people naturally seek things that bring them enjoyment or pleasure.
One reason why some people develop an addiction and others do not is because of improper dopamine receptor function. While a few people may be born with fewer dopamine receptors, research suggests that as much as 30% of people have inadequate dopamine receptor function. (2) This can lead to excessive reward-seeking behavior.
Brain Changes From Substance Use
This factor can especially complicate matters for people with inadequate dopamine receptor function. However, it can affect anyone. Drugs and alcohol disrupt the important functions and chemical balances in the brain that support healthy responses. Although disruptions initially create highs, imbalances can lead to the development of addictive behavior. (3)
Continued after video:
In recent years, people have been learning more about their differing genes through genetic testing. Our genes affect how we respond to different substances. For example, a medication may make one person sick, may help another without any side effects and may make another one feel agitated. If either of your parents or their parents struggled with addiction, the chances are higher that you will as well because of genetics. (4)
One study (5) noted that a genetic predisposition does not necessarily create compulsion, and the researchers noted that learned behavior from an environmental influence can be a key in how a person may start using drugs or alcohol.
Your environment includes everything around you. These are some examples of environmental influences: (6)
- Family, friends, peers or coworkers.
- News media, advertising, social media, and entertainment.
- Cultural or religious practices.
Each person has triggers as well. For example, if you normally drink after work or on weekends, certain times may be triggers for you. If you normally drink at parties or family gatherings, those can be triggers. Therapy and the right strategies can help you manage your triggers in all environments.
Treatment Professionals Know That Addiction Is Not a Choice
In Maricopa County, the coroner reported 1,078 overdose deaths (7) last year. The number of opioid overdose deaths (8) has increased by more than 75% during the last decade. Many people first develop an addiction at an early age. Recent research showed that 18% of Arizona teens had four or more alcoholic drinks (9) in a row within the previous 30 days. Addiction can be detrimental to jobs, relationships, and self-esteem. However, there is hope to break the addiction cycle and treat the disease.
The people who try to tell you that addiction is always a choice are misinformed. When you are trying to improve your situation, you need skilled professionals like those at Desert Cove Recovery who will support you and be your advocates. These are some of the treatment options that we offer:
- Dual diagnosis therapy
- Intensive outpatient care
- Twelve-step programs
- Holistic care
Desert Cove Recovery will work with you to create a customized recovery strategy for your unique needs. Please contact us today to learn more.