Is Drug Addiction a Disease?

Not everyone agrees with each other that drug is addiction is a disease.  Throughout society, there are many people that think drug addiction is not a disease, rather is a choice and a lack of willpower to overcome the addiction.  A main reason why people do not agree is because people are looking at the issue differently.  Some people are approaching the question as though the person decided to do the drug first and then it became a habit.  Other people including myself have the viewpoint as yes the person did indeed chose to do the drug, but did not choose to become dangerously addicted.  Once they become addicted, there no longer is a choice or option for the individual.  Understanding this topic is imperative in saving millions of people’s lives.  This is the first step in trying to treat addiction.

Vices of the western world







Above are my personal thoughts on drug addiction being a disease.  This won’t convince the people that believe drug addiction is a choice and not a disease.  To further my point, I will turn to science to convince those people otherwise.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, many drugs impact the brain by releasing a chemical in the brain called dopamine.  Think of dopamine as a “reward system” where it motivates an individual to repeat certain behaviors.  Do not just associate dopamine with drug use though.  This is because dopamine can be released by anything you feel pleasure from, such as eating and reuniting with loved ones.  Drug use causes humans to become addicted to the pleasure felt that is a result of the release of dopamine. Though, as the brain get used to the excess release of dopamine, it starts to create less each time the certain drug is used.  As a result, the individual will not get the same feelings they did the first time they used the drug.  The term that is being described, which is more widely known is “tolerance”.  That is why people need feel the need to habitually use the drug in order to achieve a new high.  By re-wiring how the brain functions, drug addiction should be treated as a disease.

In order to learn and study about the effect that genetics and the environment has on the individual’s addiction, scientists study identical twins.  This is because studying identical twins eliminates the genetic factor and allows scientists to study effects of the environment on the individual.  To study this even further, scientists will study identical twins that were raised separately and this gives another perspective on the affect that the environment has on the development of the individual.  As well, scientists study fraternal (non-identical) twins to compare to identical twins.  This gives more insight on how genetics affects addiction.  According to The Genetics of Addiction, a study of 861 identical twin pairs and 653 non-identical twin pairs found a correlation that if one identical twin was addicted to alcohol, then the other twin would have a higher probability of also being addicted.  Compared to non-identical twins, when one twin was addicted to alcohol, this didn’t automatically mean the other twin was addicted.  When scientists studied the differences of identical and non-identical twins, they found 50%-60% is due to genetic influences, and the rest is due to environmental factors.

Another study found that a child of an addict is eight times higher to develop an addiction later in life.  This is sadly a risk that children have unfortunately inherited from their parents or other past family members.  There is hope though.  Just because genetics are not in someone’s favor, the other 40% or so is due environment factors including coping skills.  Children can still have good coping skills as well as not surrounding themselves where drugs will be, and can never become an addict even though they have unfavorable genes for addiction.   This also means then if an individual has zero family members that are or were addicts, it doesn’t automatically mean the individual has a zero chance of becoming an addict.  There are environmental influences and these can cause humans to re-wire their brain through repeated drug use.  This relates to drug addiction being a disease.  As well, like other diseases, drug addiction is affected by genetics and poor life choices.  A great example of this is heart disease.  Heart disease can be developed from genetics and poor choices in life like smoking, eating the wrong type of diet, and not exercising enough.

So the next time you know someone who is an addict, do not just think they will eventually overcome their addiction, or chastise them for being addicted to drugs.  Being ignorant about drug addiction can have dire consequences on whoever you know that is addicted to drugs.  Drug addiction is a treatable disease.  Though, it is almost impossible to treat without realizing the individual has a problem. Get them into a rehabilitation center as soon as possible, you can save their life.





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