The past few days I've run into a couple different posts across social media of a bunch of idiots whining that addiction is a choice. Well as a recovering addict let me tell you how incredibly wrong and ignorant that is. Not to mention, science actually supports what I'm about to say so buckle up because I know these people who don't understand the difference, don't like facts.
Today we recognize addiction as a chronic disease that changes both brain structure and function. Just as cardiovascular disease damages the heart and diabetes impairs the pancreas, addiction hijacks the brain. (Source)
This is from an article about addiction and how it effects the brain from Harvard. I don't know why it needs to be explained beyond that to some people but it does, I guess, because people think for some reason that addicts are on purpose choosing to be addicted to shit. They are getting the choice to start taking drugs very confused with the part where people become addicted. There's a huge difference.
My initial introduction to painkillers, years ago, was from a knee injury. I dislocated it and it was awful. I was a young adult at the time around 17 or 18 years old. Not sure which. At that point in my life hadn't been regularly exposed to anything hardcore in way of drugs or illegal substances. I was a teenager and I went to parties and I did stupid shit like drink on occasion but i wasn't anywhere near a drug user. I was given T3 (Tylenol With Codeine) for the pain. My knee had become a big purple bubble of grossness and I had to wear a brace as well. It wasn't fun. So I was told to take the T3 every 4-6 hours for pain as well as ibuprofen, alternate the two or take them both together, which I did. I still had to walk around for school (and the job I had on the weekend) and face recovery time while being forced to use my leg. Great.
As anyone would do, I took pain medication because it helped. I didn't over take it, I took it as directed, because I didn't think much of it and it was helping my pain. Now, I will refer you back to the article from Harvard that explains that these substances change the brain and it's not as simple as just saying "no". You see, by claiming that I chose to be addicted, having not been warned about this potential consequence (which by the way I wasn't because I was taking the pills as directed just for a long period of time) you are also claiming that I wanted to become addicted. Which is fucking retarded. Back in the day when I injured my knee, they weren't warning people that these drugs were habit forming, at all. It wasn't even on the label. I was told to take them for pain, they helped with pain, I took them. All the while, my brain chemistry was changing. This is a physical effect of a drug not psychological, not anything like that. Hello? Does anyone understand this process?
Repeated exposure to an addictive substance or behavior causes nerve cells in the nucleus accumbens and the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain involved in planning and executing tasks) to communicate in a way that couples liking something with wanting it, in turn driving us to go after it. That is, this process motivates us to take action to seek out the source of pleasure.
To say that I willingly got addicted to these pills would also be claiming that I, on purpose, fell and dislocated my knee in order to get drugs to become addicted to because it was a choice in some way which it wasn't. This is the case with a whole shit ton of people who got addicted around the time I did because they were not informed. I actually watched several people become addicts this way because they had no fucking clue what was happening to their brain since no one bothered to inform them.
While arguing with people about this on Twitter or Facebook or whatever I keep being told that people CHOOSE the addiction over and over again. Which they don't. People choose to go back to drugs, I completely agree with that, people choose to start doing drugs, and I agree with that. However, if addictive drugs literally change your mind and brain chemistry and force you to be dependent then explain to me how that's a choice. Of course, the same people will say, "EVERYONE KNOWS GOING INTO IT DRUGS ARE ADDICTIVE THEY ARE CHOOSING THAT PATH!"
Hold on a minute, chief, not true either. Many people, MANY MANY people start doing drugs thinking they'll only do them once or twice. They think they'll do them on occasion and that will prevent them from being addicted. Many people successfully do coke a few times and never become dependent. Many people can see or feel themselves becoming dependent and stop. Just about everyone who starts taking drugs knows the risks and they also figure they won't become addicted. Full stop, will not become addicted because they won't "do them so much they do become addicted".
Yet, then suddenly they are addicts. So, explain to me that, these people who do coke with the intent to only do it once and not become addicted. They know coke is addictive, so they know going into it, well if I only do it once I can't become addicted, but then they suddenly are addicted? This would defy your stupid assertion that people choose addiction when that exact mindset would denote the person was very actively not trying to become addicted from the onset.
Nobody starts out intending to develop an addiction, but many people get caught in its snare. According to the latest government statistics, nearly 23 million Americans — almost one in 10 — are addicted to alcohol or other drugs. More than two-thirds of people with addiction abuse alcohol. The top three drugs causing addiction are marijuana, opioid (narcotic) pain relievers, and cocaine.
Now, I can't deny that addiction destroys families and ruins lives, I will not sit here and say making the choice to do drugs is smart, I can't claim that people who willingly seek out this lifestyle are the best, and brightest, or aren't making a very bad choice, but you can't also claim that these people chose to be addicted when research and studies heavily dictate that there is a change made to the brain. A physical dependency as well as a psychological one. Saying addiction is a choice is equally as stupid as saying people are choosing to be depressed. Literally every addict who struggled with addiction would just choose to not be addicted if it was easy as saying "I'm not going to take those drugs anymore". Since almost no one can do that on their own, and in a lot of cases need physical help from doctors to stop taking this stuff...how is this a choice? Alcoholics, if it's bad enough, will actually FUCKING DIE WITHOUT ALCOHOL if they give up cold turkey. How is this not a physical change to the body? You are trying to tell me a mental choice of "Hurr durr I'm just gonna stop now" can fix a physical problem? Are you that daft? Because that's not how it works.
I theorize that the people who are saying this are people who are bitter at Mom or Dad for being addicts. And I'm not saying that the behavior of addicts isn't shitty, or awful. I'm not claiming that relationships don't get fucked up because of drugs. However, being bitter and justifying your hate towards and addict by framing it as a choice is unhelpful and ignorant. Many people, myself included, would literally just stop struggling with this shit if it was easy as saying, "Addiction is bad I'm going to stop having this problem now". If you've never been an addict, or addicted to anything, you really have no right to say how much of a choice it is (or not) because you don't fucking know. If you were in that position you'd see how much addicts and recovering addicts struggle all the time to NOT be addicted. If you are claiming people "choose to go back to addiction" because they are jerks/idiots/escapism or whatever else, that's because the drugs have caused an actual physical change to the body and the brain and it's just easier to give in. They choose to give up. It may be a bad choice but there's a reason for it beyond "HURR DURR I WANNA BE A DRUG ADDICTED ASSHOLE".
It's a problem that these people don't have control over. The control ranges from very little to a lot. There are people who with 90% willpower can kick addictions and there are people who are never going to stop being addicted. This isn't something with a simple solution that is cut and dry, and this isn't people just being assholes for the sake of it. This is a problem that you really shouldn't be trying to comment on unless you actually have been through it because you look like an asshole. Don't get me wrong, I won't stop you from having your incredibly backward "addiction is a choice" opinion, though it's misinformed and ignorant, but I will say that when you have no idea what you are talking about (and it's clear you don't if you think this is a choice people are making) you look more stupid than you think these addicts look.