Addiction Is A Disease, Not A Choice

Addiction Is A Disease, Not A Choice

It's time society stops turning a blind eye to the facts at hand.

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I recently read an article claiming that addiction is not a disease. And I'm not sorry to say, that's bullshit.

Saying that addiction is not a disease because it starts with a choice is completely discrediting the scientific facts proving that it is a disease of the brain. The American Society of Addiction Medicine classifies addiction as a chronic disease of the brain, and not without good reason.

The article mentioned above has several flaws in its argument. The first flaw in this argument is that it states that addiction is not hereditary or degenerative (which by the way, it is).

There isn't such thing as a single "addiction gene." Instead, there are biological differences, combinations of genes and differences in DNA sequences that can make people more or less susceptible to addiction, as well as certain genes being present that make it easier or harder to stop their use once addiction has begun. These genes and sequences in DNA can be passed down in families, causing those who are related to someone suffering from addiction to be more susceptible to addiction as well. The University of Utah compiled a list of genes that have been linked to playing a role in addiction which can be found here.

Studies of identical twins showed that if one twin was to experience addiction, 76 percent of the time the other twin will also experience addiction, and vice-versa.

The part that really kills me about this article is saying that addiction is not degenerative. I just don't understand how someone could have such a lack of knowledge in the role drugs play on the brain to try and say that they do not cause any deterioration of the brain.

First, we'll start with central nervous system stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamines. These drugs speed up brain activity, increase blood pressure and increase heart rate. This causes blood vessels to constrict which causes strokes and can cause blood pressure to become so high it causes sudden death. Chronic cocaine users often experience cardiac arrest or seizures due to their prolonged use. Prolonged use of meth can cause permanent damage to certain brain cells, the most prevalent being those of dopaminergic chemical signaling (causing a decrease in dopamine levels). The University of Utah performed research showing that meth users were three times more likely than non-drug users to develop Parkinson's disease due to the damage of the dopaminergic system. More studies have shown that abuse of drugs such as meth and ecstasy can have neurological consequences that are similar to that of traumatic brain injuries.

Alcoholism can cause those a deficit in vitamins such as Vitamin B1. Lack of this vitamin can cause Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, a disabling disorder that can cause paralysis of nerves controlling the eyes, problems with coordination, involuntary eye movements and double vision. 90 percent of those with this syndrome go on to develop Korsakoff's psychosis which can cause more coordination issues, trouble walking, chronic memory issues and hallucinations.

Data suggest that chronic opioid users, which includes prescription painkillers such as Vicodin, Percocet, oxycodone and heroin, modifies the function and structure of the brain that causes issues with impulse control and emotion regulation. Research also suggests that chronic heroin users will experience degeneration of white matter in the brain, which can cause issues with stress management, behavior regulation and the ability to perform decision making.

Inhalants can cause sudden death just like stimulants by causing irregular heart rate and consequently causing heart failure. But along with that, certain inhalants (such as toluene and naphthalene) can cause damage to the myelin sheath in nerves fibers which directly help conduct nerve impulses. More nerve damage due to inhalants can cause complications similar to those who suffer from multiple sclerosis, a central nervous system disease that causes issues with coordination, weakness in limbs, numbness/tremors, issues with attention/memory, and speech impediments. Chronic use of inhalants can also cause issues with movement, hearing, vision and cognition.

As you can see, chronic drug use does cause degeneration of the body and the brain.

The next part of the article that I have an issue with is the line "A patient with cancer is not cured if locked in a cell, whereas an alcoholic is automatically cured. No access to alcohol means no alcoholism." For someone who is heavily addicted to drugs, quitting cold turkey can be incredibly unsafe. There are plenty of drugs where if you were to put this person locked in a cell and force them to quit, they'll die. For some people, using these drugs long enough causes their body to literally become dependant on them to function. Sudden withdrawal can cause some serious issues. Alcohol withdrawal can cause brain damage, seizures, heart palpitation, and death. A combination of these is called delirium tremens, which occurs in up to 10 percent of all alcoholics who attempt to detox and ultimately kills 35 percent of them. In fact, Psychology Today says that quitting alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids cold turkey, without medical help, can kill you.

Lastly, I have an issue with this article saying "When we allow people to refer to addiction as a disease, we are placing it alongside things like cancer and that is not fair at all." Before I continue, I do not want to discredit how truly awful cancer is. That is not my intention. What I'm irritated with is people saying that addiction and cancer are not comparable. It's true that many forms of cancer develop for reasons unknown that are out of our control. But cancers such as lung cancer (caused by smoking) and melanoma (caused by prolonged exposure to the sun or UV lights, a.k.a. tanning) are things we can control. Would you look at someone with lung cancer or melanoma and say "Well, you decided to smoke/tan. It was a choice you made, so your disease is invalid"? No, you wouldn't. Would you look at someone with diabetes or heart disease and say "Well, you chose to eat poorly and not exercise, so your disease in invalid"? No, you wouldn't.

Yes, addiction starts with the choice of the person to pick up that drug. But their brain and their body literally form a dependency and it is out of their control to whether or not they form an addiction. No one wants to have cancer. No one wants to have diabetes or heart disease. And no one wants to have an addiction to drugs.

While the first use and early stage of addiction is a choice, eventually the brain will change so much that people will lose control of their behavior and will to stop because their body is dependant on the drug. Eating poorly/not exercising is a choice, smoking is a choice and tanning is a choice, yet we accept the diseases that are consequently developed from these choices. Why can we not accept that addiction is also a disease?

It's time society stops turning a blind eye to the facts at hand. Addiction is hereditary, it is degenerative, it can kill, it is a disease. By trying to force the notion that addiction is a choice and not a disease you are preventing people from seeking help from their disease because they fear the societal repercussions. Addiction is a disease, and those suffering deserve all the help that those suffering from other diseases get.

I don't care if you think addiction is a choice; you're wrong. I have presented plenty of backed up facts to prove that this belief is wrong and honestly downright stupid. If you continue to hold onto this notion, you are a part of the problem preventing those affected from getting help.

Addiction is a disease, not a choice. And it's about time we start acting like it.

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14 Fraternity Guy Gifts Ideas, Since He Already Has Enough Beer

Frat boys are a species of their own and here are some exciting gifts they will be ecstatic to receive!

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What more do frat boys love than alcohol, partying, and just acting stupid? Here are some gifts that help fulfill all of those needs for the frat boy in your life!

1. Beer holster belt

Whats better than one beer? Six beers! This fashionable camouflage accessory can be used for tailgates, beach days, formals and everything in between.

Price: $8.49 (one pack), $14.99 (two pack)

2. Phone juul holder 

You know those cardholders everyone sticks on the back of their phones? Well, now a Juul holder for your phone is on the market! This will save your favorite frat boy from ever again losing his Juul!

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3. Animal house poster 

This Animal House poster is a classic staple for any frat boy. This poster will compliment any frat house decor or lack thereof.

Price: $1.95

4. The American Fraternity book

Does the frat boy in your life need a good read for Thanksgiving or winter break? Look no farther, this will certainly keep his attention and give him a history lesson on American fraternity heritage and tradition.

Price: $28.46

5. Beer pong socks 

These snazzy socks featuring beer pong will be loved by any frat boy. As for the way to any frat boy's heart may, in fact, be beer pong.

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6. Condom case

This condom carrying case will not only protect condoms from damage but also make frat boys more inclined to practice safe sex, which is a win-win situation!

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7. Frat house candle

Ahhh yes, who does not like the smell of stale beer in a dark, musty frat house basement? Frat boys can make their apartment or bedroom back home smell like their favorite place with the help of this candle.

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8. "Frat" sticker

Frat boys always need to make sure everyone around them knows just how "fratty" they are. This versatile stick can go on a laptop, car, water bottle, or practically anywhere their little hearts desire.

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9. Natty Light t-shirt 

Even I will admit that this shirt is pretty cool. The frat boy in your life will wear this shirt at every possible moment, it is just that cool!

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10. Natty light fanny pack 

This fanny pack can absolutely be rocked by any frat boy. The built-in koozie adds a nice touch.

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A neon beer sign will be the perfect addition to any frat boys bedroom.

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12. Beer Opener

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14. Beer Lights 

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Please note that prices are accurate and items in stock as of the time of publication. As an Amazon Associate, Odyssey may earn a portion of qualifying sales.

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What I've Learned Growing Up The Child Of An Addict

When you're a child of addiction, you tend to deal with a lot of pain, frustration, and guilt. At some point, these feelings become more an opportunity for growth and learning than anything else.

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I've always wanted my dad to be someone else. I'm sure every child has imagined their life with different parent(s) in a moment of anger- but when you're the child of an addict, it tends to be more than a fleeting thought; it becomes something of a daydream, actually.

Eventually, though, these thoughts and resentments are replaced with acceptance and appreciation.

As you enter adulthood and start making a life for yourself, separate from your parents', it seems easier to approach the "grown-ups" in your life with a greater sense of perspective and, therefore, understanding. You've now faced losses, have had to make some of the life-changing decisions that send some on a path to addiction, and have been exposed to certain environments that act as breeding grounds for addictive personalities and people prone to distress and deviated behavior.

Overall, you've seen more of the world; you know first-hand how hard it can be to experience, and why some people find any means of escape. I've always wanted my dad to be someone else- until I realized he taught me a lot about myself, the world around me, and the choices everyone must make at some point.

Until I was about 11 or so, I spent my summers months in Santa Cruz, California, where my father lives. I always arrived and left happy enough, but often dreaded the middle part of the trip. It wasn't all bad, of course: I had other families to see, frequent trips to the beach and boardwalk, and a lot of fresh seafood to eat. But many nights, and afternoons even, my father was drunk. Very drunk. He would drive me drunk, he would leave me with strangers while he went to the pub to get drunker and when he was around, would hover over me like a sad, lost puppy. Sometimes I didn't understand, but when I did, I was heartbroken for him; I pitied him, even. His mother died when he was very young, and he grew up in Wales, where it was pretty common to start drinking at a young age, so he didn't really have anyone to urge him against it as relief from the grief he felt. His father, to make matters worse, was often fairly cold and distant.

My father, in retrospect, didn't stand much of a chance. Instead of a loser, or weak-minded and hopeless, I see him now as a product of his environment. I've come to appreciate that lots of people don't have access to the resources I do, or have people available to them that help, and not hinder, their personal growth. I recognize that he's made the choices he's made, good or bad, but have also learned that almost every one of them has absolutely nothing to do with me. In fact, I know he wishes he hadn't made some of them, if only for my sake. Instead of regretting the time I've spent with him like I used to, I appreciate that he even made time for me and that in his self-awareness, he has always allowed me the room to feel anger, grief, and frustration. Even if it was towards him.

Flash forward to more recently, when I learned that growth is not linear. It is not always easy, or helpful, to apply things you've learned in the past to new situations. This became more evident for me not long after Christmas a few years ago. A couple days prior, my dad had come to Washington for the holidays (because we concluded that he'd been sober for long enough to deserve a visit) and we were in downtown Seattle with my aunt and cousin just walking around. Apparently, he hadn't been as sober as long as he'd said, because he went into withdrawal in a small shop on the waterfront. He fell to the ground, and all I'd heard was the crash as his head hit the floor full-force. He laid there, seizing and unaware until the EMTs came for him. And I stood there, still and too aware, until my cousin pulled me to the back of the store.

This wasn't the last time this happened. It happened next Christmas, too. Different place, fewer people, but it all looked and felt the same. I was disappointed for a long time that he couldn't keep sober for longer than a couple months. It seemed like every time he would make progress, he would fall off the wagon soon after. I started to see a pattern, though. Each time he failed, it became easier for him to put himself back together, and the periods between his failures would shorten in length. Apparently, the idea that growth is not linear did not just apply to me.

Every time I become resentful, or impatient with him, I remind myself that progress has dips and peaks, and is a process like anything else; he deserves, at the very least, the benefit of the doubt. Without it, he wouldn't have much to work towards.

I'm nineteen now and haven't spoken to my dad in months. Every time I do, I feel guilty and an impending sort of melancholy. Last time we spoke I was in Santa Cruz and it was in person; he was still drinking. I thought for sure it would be my last time with him, so I cherished it and tried to walk away with closure. Since that visit, the one I thought would be our last, I learned the most important thing of all: I am not obligated to give him my time or attention, and I should not feel guilty about keeping it from him, because it is not, and never has been, my job to keep him on the straight and narrow.

I am a child and, most of all, my own person. If I decide to call him one of these days, it is because I want to, and not because I feel I have to. If I call him, it will be because of all he's taught me and all he still has yet to.

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