When it comes to your genes science is a great teacher. Genes can be thought of as the instruction manual for your body.
While our genes put us on a path they do not dictate our destiny. Nicotine addiction is a perfect example.
People with certain genes experience this nicotine differently and they derive a lot more pleasure from that nicotine.
That doesn’t mean they’re born addicted to it and they won’t ever become addicted unless they come into contact with the ingredient in the first place.
Each person contains two sets of genes so our instruction manual is actually so relevant that it’s repeated twice. And that instruction guide isn’t always the same for every single gene because sometimes they have slightly different information.
Drug addiction – Is it Really a Choice?
A long-standing debate has been argued for years whether addicts have a choice over their behaviors. Many believe at its core addiction isn’t just a social problem or a moral problem or a criminal problem.
Rather, it’s a brain problem whose behaviors manifest in all these other areas and not solely related to problematic substance abuse. Experts who have adopted this theory contend if that’s to be believed then addiction is a chronic brain disorder and not simply a behavior problem involving alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex.
The disease is about brains, not drugs, with many actions driven by addiction that are real problems and sometimes criminal acts. It’s measured in terms of underlying neurology, not outward actions.
The argument concludes that addiction should be redefined by what’s going on in the brain because the disease creates distortions in thinking, perceptions and feelings. These triggers drive people to behave in ways that are not understandable to others around them.
Knowing this, addiction is not a choice. Addictive behaviors are a manifestation of the disease and not a cause. However, choice does play a role in seeking help. We know there is no pill that alone can cure addiction so choosing recovery over unhealthy decisions is a must.
This assessment equates to people with diabetes who may not choose the underlying genetic causes of their illness but do need to desire a healthier lifestyle or begin exercising, in addition to possible medical or surgical interventions.
If we consider diabetes or even cardiovascular disease to be a chronic illness, why not drug addiction?
Drug Addiction is a Chronic Disease
It’s easy for someone who has never walked in the shoes of an addict or faced that personal struggle, or who has never cared for or loved someone who had a drug addiction to dismiss the idea that addiction is a disease.
The myth that becoming or having a dependency to drugs is a choice that people make is dangerous in spite of the research that has shown otherwise.
We know there will always be detractors in the scientific community even though most current research indicates that addiction is a disease that afflicts some people and not others.
Many people who try drugs once or twice never do so again, while others become addicts struggling for years to get clean again.
There are many reasons why someone might try drugs, but there is no conceivable motivation anyone would choose to become an addict.
An addict is totally dependent upon their drug of choice, so much so their world as they know it comes crashing down in the wake of their need for that fix.
Relationships suffer and many disintegrate, health deteriorates, jobs are lost, some end up in jail and many even become homeless. No one knowingly or willfully chooses this life!
Underlying factors of Drug Addiction
The seduction of drug use is a conundrum. Often a user gets into drugs initially because of emotional problems, stress, pressure, or mental illness.
Using drugs is not simply a cut and dry choice. There are many factors involved. Addiction is affected by environment, abuse, witnessing violence, peer pressure, stress and availability.
In spite of a few dissenters who claim that addicts can simply make a choice to stop using and then just like that they screech to a halt, most researchers have found evidence that addiction is, in fact, a disease that must be treated.
On the surface alone there are many similarities between addiction and other chronic medical diseases.
Both are highly heritable meaning that they run in the family gene pool; the beginning and course of both are influenced by the environment and behaviors; and both respond to long-term, appropriate treatment plans.
Never mind how a dependency begins and the choices made to reach that point. Drug addiction is a disease. This doesn’t mean the user gets a free pass. He or she is not completely helpless.
What this means is as with other chronic diseases, addicts must seek drug addiction treatment, get support and make positive lifestyle changes.