Is addiction a disease or a choice?

Some people believe that using drugs is a choice. That it’s the person with addiction who is at fault because they dared to try drugs in the first place.

Most of us have abused a drug at some point in our lives–whether that’s a cigarette, alcohol, marijuana or  a prescription medication.

Most of us are able to stop.

But for those who are predisposed, the brain engages instantly. All of a sudden that drug fills in a blank their life has been missing.

I have kept this quote from Brian Cuban, who wrote the following in an article called  How I became a cocaine addict. It really helped me understand substance use disorder.

I had felt like a loser my entire life to that point. I took the baggie and went into a bathroom stall where I would be able to snort my first line of cocaine in my life in privacy. Within seconds, I was in heaven. I was suddenly the most handsome guy in the club. I saw a confident, chiseled image in the bathroom mirror. Mirrors had been my enemy for so many years. I had to see that person again.

Within moments, I had discovered the magic trick I needed to instantly transform myself from monster to man. I now knew the secret to defeating the shame of self. Cocaine was the answer.

That incredible high changed my brain process both biologically and psychologically. The cycle was complete. There was no self-awareness as a person and no peer group as a balance. That is how addicts function. I had become an addict. I couldn’t stop. I had no desire to stop.

Charles knew we didn’t want him to do drugs, but in his mind it was better than killing himself.  And that’s how he could justify his use. At first, he, too, felt transformed from misery to magnificent.

Charles took his own life while going through withdrawal. Ironically, what he once thought saved him, ended up doing him in. That’s not a choice. That’s an sickness.


What is it like to suffer from addiction?

Author: Anne Moss Rogers

I am the owner of emotionally naked, a site that reached a quarter million people in its first 18 months. I am President of Beacon Tree Foundation, advocates for youth mental health as well as a writer and public speaker on the topics of suicide, addiction, mental illness, and grief. I lost my youngest son, Charles, 20, to suicide June 5, 2015. I was a marketing professional for years prior to losing my son and co-owned a digital marketing firm.

5 thoughts on “Is addiction a disease or a choice?”

  1. I agree completely. Alcoholism “runs” in our family and it is a sickness. The alcoholics I’ve known and loved sought escape.

    1. You are 100 per cent correct. I am an adult grandchild of an alcoholic. My mother said her father detested the taste of alcohol and choked it down for the effect. The brain never forgets. My Christmas wish is for my son’s disease and our family’ s suffering to end. Perhaps that will never happen, but we will all learn to manage this.

      1. Charles got his first taste of an opiate in the hospital at 15. It was not until he was 19 that he got back to opiates. Managing the emotions of the addiction of a loved one was hard and I failed at times even after I joined a support group. But it was at a support group that I learned how and most of the time I could rely on those strategies

        1. I also went to a support group and was humbled by the courage of the group. There are days that I feel like giving up but that isn’t an option. I have learned to detach. I have also had to take antidepressants because I was crying myself to sleep at night (IF I could sleep) and found that I had become a very angry woman. Going through life angry, tense, tired and tearful isn’t fair to my husband, other child, co-workers and friends. So I take meds. It has saved my life. My emotions are somewhat flat now, but if one has to be fitted for a night guard from grinding teeth at night, well, I did what I needed to survive…

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