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Is Addiction a Choice?

Woman pondering, "Is addiction a choice?"

The debate about whether addiction is a choice or a disease is understandable. Even some addiction treatment experts argue the point. Addiction is a multilayered issue made even more complex by misunderstandings and stigmas. Scientific evidence reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse helps explain why addiction is not a choice.

Vertava Health Ohio provides evidence-based treatments to address drug and alcohol addiction. Call Vertava Health Ohio today at 850.374.5331 to learn more.

Is Addiction a Choice?

The American Medical Association defines addiction as a chronic disease. It’s often compared to other chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease.

Eating the wrong foods and not getting enough exercise may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, but once a person is diagnosed, they can mitigate their diabetes with a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. Diabetes is a chronic disease with no cure, but it can be successfully managed.

The same is true for addiction. While addicted people are still accountable for their behavior and may have made choices that led to addiction, addiction itself is a chronic disease that can be managed with the right treatments and lifestyle changes.

Risk Factors For Addiction

Just as with diabetes or heart disease, there are several risk factors for addiction that are out of a person’s control. These factors help explain why two people can start using drugs at the same age, under similar circumstances, and consume similar amounts, but only one of them becomes addicted.

Risk factors of addiction include:


The way an addicted person’s brain reacts to substances may be different than the way someone else’s brain reacts. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that up to half of a person’s risk of addiction is hereditary.


Children who grow up in a household or community where drug and alcohol abuse are common and where substances are easy to obtain have a higher risk of addiction.

Dual Diagnosis

Underlying mental or physical health issues also increase the risk for addiction. Self-medicating for pain, depression, or other disorders can lead to addiction.

Other factors like the age of use, the type of substance, and the method of ingestion also affect a person’s risk of developing an addiction. When all of these influences are considered, it’s easier to understand that some people have less of a choice than others when it comes to addiction.

Addiction and the Brain

Human brains are highly adaptable. They are constantly responding to stimuli, and in the case of addiction, the brain responds to substances. Drugs can:

  • Overstimulate the brain’s reward center
  • Send false signals to the central nervous system
  • Lead to an overproduction of dopamine and other brain chemicals

It is the overproduction of these “feel-good” chemicals that creates the feelings of euphoria associated with being high.

Repeated overstimulation disrupts the brain’s normal function. The body increases its tolerance for the substance while simultaneously increasing cravings.

At this point, individuals become dependent on the substance and are no longer able to function without it. Being “strong” or having willpower is not enough to help people abstain once they have become dependent.

You Have a Choice of Addiction Treatment Centers: Choose Vertava Health Ohio

Is addiction a choice? No, but recovery is. At Vertava Health Ohio, we treat the disease of addiction with science-backed therapies. Our substance-specific programs are designed to address the mental and physical side effects of addiction as well as teach patients the coping skills they need for long-term recovery.

Call Vertava Health Ohio today at 850.374.5331 if you or a loved one needs serious treatment for the serious disease of addiction.