The debate about if addiction is a disease someone battles or a decision that someone makes has been going on for generations. People who have never had an issue with addiction often assume that the person is simply choosing to use drugs. People who are in active addiction feel that it’s nearly impossible for them to stop on their own. With the detox symptoms that occur, it can sometimes be dangerous for a person to go cold turkey from drugs. The following guide dives into a few things you need to know about addiction to determine if you feel it’s a decision people make or a disease they can’t control.

How Drugs Affect the Brain

The first thing you need to take into account is how drugs affect the brain. Each drug affects the brain differently and some are more addictive than others. People who smoke marijuana do not feel a sudden urge to smoke it again when it wears off. Heroin or meth, on the other hand, can cause instant cravings for more of the drug because the body craves it from the start.

Drugs change the way the brain functions. Ecstasy, for example, changes the way neuroreceptors in your brain work. You get a huge dump of dopamine into your system which makes you feel elated, relieved from stress and overall stress-free. When the drug wears off, your body is depleted of the dopamine it needs to be happy and energetic. As your body rebuilds its supply of dopamine, you often feel lethargic, sad and sometimes simply depressed. This is the stage where addiction and decisions come into play. Some people choose to take more Ecstasy to bring back the feelings hey had when they were high. People in active addiction often claim that their body craved the drug so much that they could not resist taking it.

Social Environments Affects Addiction

Active users often hang out with other active users. This means that someone who uses drugs will typically hang out with other people who use drugs. The problem with this is that it becomes acceptable to use drugs at any time for any reason. An enabling environment can often perpetuate an addiction because the users don’t have anyone to reel them in when it comes to their drug use.

At some point, the drug use is enabled and encouraged by their friends and can make it difficult for someone to stop if they want to. If someone is in active addiction and wants to stop using, but doesn’t because their friends pressure them to use, they are often viewed as making a decision to use.

Scientific Research can be Contradictory

It can be difficult to know if addiction is a disease or a decision because of the scientific research that has been done on the topic. Some researchers classify addiction as a mental illness. Studies have shown that extended drug use over many years causes the functioning of the brain to change. The cravings for the drugs become overwhelming to the point that the person in active addiction can no longer choose not to do the drugs on their own. Others believe that addiction is a decision because once the drugs are out of their system, they now only have to choose not to do them. Unfortunately, both of these beliefs can be viewed as being a reality and make addiction treatment difficult at times.

Addiction is a Reoccurring Illness

Because someone who has been in active addiction always has the chance of relapsing, many people view it as a disease. Since other diseases, such as cancer have a chance of relapses after the disease appears to be completely gone from the body, they assume that addiction is similar. It’s important to know that addiction comes in different forms. There is mental and physical addiction to drugs. Once someone is no longer addicted physically to drugs, their mental addiction can cause them to relapse at any time. That is why it’s important for them to seek ongoing treatment to decrease the chance of a relapse happening.

Much like those who have been treated for cancer need to go for regular checkups to make sure that it hasn’t returned, those suffering from addiction need to go for regular checkups, as well. Going to see a counselor to discuss the stresses of life can help decrease the chances of a relapse. Going to group meetings with others who are in recovery helps people to realize they aren’t alone in their recovery. They can get advice on how to battle temptations and the urge to use again.

Addiction May be Both a Decision and a Disease

It’s best to consider addiction both a disease and a decision that someone makes. People can take control of their lives, even when they are in active addiction. In order for someone to be able to stop using they have to make the conscious decision to stop. No one can make them do anything that they don’t want to do. It will take hard work and effort, but once someone is clean from the drugs, they can start their life over again. It’s a decision they have to make on their own.

If you know someone who is in active addiction or you are battling an addiction yourself, there is help out there. Outpatient treatment is ideal for someone who knows they really want to make changes and has the ability to stick with a treatment program while living their daily life. Someone who knows they are going to have a hard time avoiding temptations may want to seek inpatient treatment options. It allows them to get away from all of the stress of life and focus on their sobriety. Both options require the person to make a decision to want to change their life, but both can help make recovery easier. You can talk to a counselor at a treatment facility to narrow down your options and choose the best option for you.

Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.