23 million Americans struggle with substance abuse disorders and addiction every year, with as many as 10% of Americans developing a substance abuse disorder in their lifetime. With so many people battling addiction, it’s easy to wonder is drug addiction a choice?
Addiction is considered a mental health disease that is progressive, chronic, and incurable. During addiction, drugs alter your pleasure and reward center, disrupt your brain chemistry, and impair your judgment. This leads to changes in your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Since drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50, addiction is also a potentially fatal disease. Besides overdoses, drugs can also cause cognitive damage and organ failure.
Is Drug Addiction a Choice?
So, is drug addiction a choice? During addiction, you compulsively abuse drugs despite dealing with serious negative consequences as a result of your use while maintaining a strong desire to stop using. The reason you continue to abuse drugs despite recognizing that it’s irrational is that addiction causes changes to your pleasure and reward center.
Drugs, such as opiates, benzodiazepines, and cocaine, are neurotransmitter inhibitors that cause your brain to release more neurotransmitters than it should. Once this happens, your brain associates your drug of choice with pleasure. Then your pleasure and reward center positively reinforces your drug use by only releasing neurotransmitters when you use. The neurotransmitter imbalance causes you to experience intense cravings and mood changes until you resume your use.
Eventually, your brain becomes unable to release neurotransmitters without your substance of choice. Your brain also connects anything that reminds you of your substance of choice with pleasure. Therefore, you feel powerful cravings whenever exposed to triggers. Common signs and symptoms of drug addiction include:
- Inability to stop, reduce, or control your drug use
- Spending excessively amounts of time and money using and buying drugs
- Resorting to criminal actions to pay for drugs
- Having to increase your use because your tolerance builds
- Concealing, hiding, or denying your drug use
Another important thing to remember when considering “Is drug addiction a choice?” is wanting to quit using isn’t enough to recover.
How Drug Addiction is Treated
When you develop an addiction, you fully understand the answer to is drug addiction a choice. Because willpower alone isn’t enough to conquer addiction, treatment centers offer both inpatient and outpatient programs dedicated to helping you learn how to manage recovery.
During treatment, you’ll learn how addiction works and what steps to take to manage your symptoms. Since addiction is chronic, it’s important to learn how to cope with triggers, stress, and cravings effectively. Cravings can last for months, or even years, after your last use. Sometimes, cravings can intensify and cause you to relapse. Identifying your major triggers and finding ways to cope with them without drugs is one of the major goals of treatment.
An inpatient or outpatient program also can offer dual diagnosis programs, which can help you recover from co-occurring conditions. During addiction, it’s common to experience strained and damaged relationships. Treatment helps improve your conflict resolution and communication skills, which can provide you with the tools you need to repair your relationships.
Finding Treatment Today
For those that wonder is drug addiction a choice, the short answer is that addiction is a disease, not a condition caused by a lack of willpower. Symptoms of addiction can become devastating and disabling if you delay treatment, resulting in serious consequences that may be difficult to overcome. When you are ready to regain control of your life and beat addiction, call us today at 855.259.1624.