Young woman struggling with addiction

Progress made in the world of addiction research and education has helped create a more accessible and accurate description of what’s otherwise known as substance use disorder or SUD. Previously, addiction was largely seen as a lack of self-control or concern over one’s well-being which suggests anyone suffering from addiction has chosen to do so.

Unfortunately, it’s this same misconception that stops affected individuals from seeking out help due to fear of being seen as weak or lesser in the eyes of their peers. Over the years, the stigma of those who struggle with substance abuse became accepted as common knowledge until research was actually conducted on a larger scale.

The Dated Idea of Addiction

While the use of psychoactive substances has been around for thousands of years, the long-term implications of substance abuse have only been observed more recently. Throughout history, those who were addicted to drugs or alcohol were associated with lower social classes leading to a negative stereotype that this group has had to fight against for decades.

Even the doctors and researchers first tasked with digging deeper into addiction were plagued with the misconception that poverty and social class were the strongest connection to addiction. It’s only been since the early 21st century that addiction has received fully unbiased research and progress has since gained momentum at a significant rate.

Why Some Believe Addiction Is a Choice

The behavioral aspects of addiction are some of the most unique factors found between otherwise similar cases of addiction. There are still some scientists who hold onto the belief that addiction is always a choice spurred on by the desire to experience a positive sensation.

Some point to addiction to video games or social media as evidence of this claim. The key difference between enjoyable activities and substance use is that while the brain does reward us for both, drugs and alcohol have a much heavier impact on our brain’s functionality.

Addiction’s True Classification as a Disease

It’s only been in the last few decades that researchers have transitioned away from viewing addiction as a choice and have given it the more appropriate label as a disease. The primary breakthrough that fueled this change was how addiction changes the brain’s relationship with a specific substance.

Over time, the use of drugs or alcohol will alter specific areas of the central nervous system that produce various chemicals responsible for reacting to stimulus as well as providing us with a sense of reward and satisfaction. These dependencies are what turns drug use from an active decision to an unconscious compulsion that supersedes all other responsibilities.

To make things more complicated, certain individuals will struggle with addictive behavior far more than others. Mental health conditions, heavy exposure to drugs and hereditary traits all play a role in whether or not someone will end up becoming addicted to a frequently-used substance.

What To Take Away About Addiction

Addiction has no single cure and is a lifelong disease that requires further research and testing to discover the most effective methods of treatment. While the decision to first use drugs or alcohol is made by the individual, the forming of an addiction is done regardless of what they wanted out of the experience.

The possibility for substance use to turn into addiction is also higher in some, specifically those with underlying mental health concerns or diseases. The presence of these conditions can severely impact one’s ability to function “normally” even when sober, often leading to self-medicating with drugs to mask these symptoms.

Find Help for Addiction

Understanding that addiction sticks around for life doesn’t mean that substance abuse will also always be there. With the right treatment and support, long-term sobriety can be achieved. America’s Rehab Campus proudly strives for the goal of lifelong sober living with a vast network of aftercare mental health professionals who specialize in relapse prevention.

Paired with the knowledge and life skills built during treatment, ARC’s inpatient and outpatient programs truly set alumni up to take back their life from addiction once and for all. If you or a loved one are in need of addiction treatment, reach out to our compassionate support team today with any questions you may have!