Is Alcohol & Drug Addiction a Disease or a Choice?

As long as there has been addiction, there has also been attempts to understand its nature. Is addiction a choice? Or is addiction a disease? For centuries, mankind has been striving to unravel the mysteries of what addiction actually does to someone to make them continue using even though it leads to obvious harm. There have been several beliefs and philosophies regarding chemical dependency that became generally accepted by society. However, each new theory often contradicts the key principles of the former belief, creating conflicts of ideals. While there hasn’t been much of an informational revolution for the last twenty years, a new theory by Marc Lewis is proposing a radical change to our understanding of addiction. But before we can fully understand what Lewis is positing, it is important that we understand the previous interpretations of addiction.

The Moral Model of Addiction

One of the more long-standing philosophies of addiction has been the Moral Model. For centuries, people who were addicted to substances were considered to be of weaker will or lacking in moral character. According to people who hold this view, Addiction is considered to be a conscious choice that addicts continue make every time they presented with substances. Practitioners in the era often employed techniques of public shaming and humiliation. However, these approaches still did not seem to work for most cases.

Disease Model of Addiction

In last twenty years, new technological innovations, particularly brain mapping instruments, gave us more insight as to the physical changes that addiction creates in the brain. From what researchers were able to see, the action and behaviors of addiction were symptoms of a chemical imbalance in the brain, bearing parallels to the nature of most chronic diseases. Many organizations (such AA and other 12-Step programs) have integrated philosophy of treating addiction like an involuntary disease, rather than conscious choice. With the application of the disease model, practices have demonstrated greater success in treating clients. Even though there have been individuals have not benefited from care that is based on the disease model, it has made greater accommodations to a greater majority of the population.

New Theory of Addiction

Recently, psychologist and recovering addict Marc Lewis has made claims that addiction would not be accurately defined if it were characterized as a disease. According to Lewis, the classification of addiction does not leave much room to take into account the placidity of the human brain and its ability to adapt to situation. Instead, Marc Lewis posits that the effects of addiction are more related to disruption of homeostasis in cognitive development.

Lewis states that “The brain changes with addiction, but the way it changes has to do with learning and development — not disease.”
With his thesis, Lewis intends to view addiction as a disruption in the mind (particularly concerning motivation); a bad habit that is strongly reinforced by chemicals, rather than a chronic disease.

With this new theory circling the psychiatric communities, it is difficult to immediately determine if Marc Lewis’s model of addiction will cause significant reforms in the way society views addiction, but it may provide assistance to some individuals with a similar mindset. Time will tell if this philosophy of chemical dependency takes hold in the rest of society and really does provide better insight that will assist the rest of the world.

Learn more about the variety of treatments for addiction.  Or call and speak with an addiction specialist 866-578-7471 to answer any questions. 

  1. Good to know that the brain changes with addiction. To me, I will say it’s a choice which results into a disease.

    Thanks for sharing

  2. Alcohol actually start for people most of the times as a choice for the time unless they aren’t addicted to. Once they get addict, it becomes a habit.

  3. For me, drugs addiction is a choice. No one was born a drug addict. Everyone of us has our own choice to use or turn your back from drugs. The real disease is the drugs itself, once the drugs reached the streets or market, It will eventually fiddle its way into our homes and lives of our family memebers.

  4. To some it is a choice while it is a disease. It is a choice in the sense that when they are depressed, they think drug is a way of getting out of it not knowing that when the drunkenness is gone, the depression returns.

  5. Drug addiction is a choice, the choice now leads to disease affecting everyone around. It’s a 2 in 1 case where one leads to the other

  6. It is a disease because it takes away people’s right senses whenever they are under its influence. Drug and alcohol make the addicts engage in unthinkable things which may actually lead them to perdition.

  7. For me, it is a choice. You started drinking and addiction not when you feel a=it was good. It was all your choice and let yourself be dependent on it. Though Lewis has a point it is still a theory.

  8. These bad things can never be choice of anyone. It came only due to some compulsion or childish . Never take it for fun , it is the things in which your whole family have to suffer due to you.

  9. I’ll always see an addiction to both as a conscious decision. Nothing more. They know it’s harmful but care less about the futuristic outcomes. Only the immediate gains they might get matters.

  10. For me drug Addiction is a disease which may lead me to death also.Addiction is a very bad habit.People should think about their families before addicted with something.

  11. To me it is both. It starts as a choice but ends up as a disease granted not in a general sense. Any addiction stats this way. As theysay, Regret is always at the end. To me better not get into it at all.

  12. No drug addiction ia deases ia not choice, sometimes people looking for instan way,so fall in to drug and alcohol,we must brake our desired to used that,see how negative and bad impact if fall in to that

  13. Scientist may come up with several explanation as regards addiction but all I know is addiction is a conscious effort made by people for reasons best known to them. These drugs are addictive and it’s pretty easy for people to get hooked. With what Marc Lewis said, I can only hope that drug addicts get the best help they can find

  14. To me drug addiction can be said to be a choice at first because a person decides to use drugs, then as the individual progresses with the drug intake he becomes unable to control himself because the drugs has taken over his mind. At this stage it may seem as a disease because it now becomes a problem, a disorder or a condition.

  15. Drug abuse is a choice not a disease, for some people it can be a disease but for me it is a choice on the part of the people involved. You can decide to be involved in or not involved in drugs. Thanks for sharing.

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