Drug Addiction Disease or Choice? Essay

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Drug addiction, disease or choice, the National Institution of Drugs Association (NIDA) has determined Drug Addiction a chronic, relapsing brain disease while opposing views debate Drug Addiction as solely a choice controlled voluntarily? Drug addiction is now recognized as a chronic relapsing brain disease expressed in the form of compulsive behaviors. Hence, the estimated economic cost contributed to disease foundations is $181Billion a year? Could this be a loophole for obtaining funds and doesn’t this kind of money seem high to be contributed to a voluntarily poor decision? Weather you believe addiction to be a disease or a choice is to be seen. Many well respected professors and scientist claim addiction is a scapegoat behavior that has been incorrectly identified as a physical or mental illness, an addict is only a victim of bad science and misguided policy. NIDA has made ground-breaking discoveries about the brain and has revolutionized our understanding of drug abuse and drug addiction.

Later to be defined is what the significant difference between abuse and addiction, which can ultimately change ones point of view. The following is a combination of research by medical institutions and well respected professional in the fields of science, along with two very interviews, with an ex drug addict turned counselor for a methadone treatment facility, an individual in active addiction, and a recovering addict. The experience, strength, and hopes of these professionals and the personal trauma had by each of these addicts is part of a message that should be heard by anyone ever touched by the disease of addiction in any way shape or form.

Drug Addiction is a growing problem today and has caught the attention of many professionals these professionals have opposing views of the cause, some will say Drug addiction is a disease while others will claim it is a voluntary choice of poor decisions making. NIDA has determined that addiction is a disease. The big controversy is said to be in the difference of terminology. Before one can make the assessment weather addiction is a disease or choice they must first understand the difference between addiction and abuse.

What are the differences Between a Drug Abuser, and a Drug Addict? Many people assume that addiction is simply an overuse of drugs, and that the addict is just a drug user who chooses to use too much. But research has shown that addiction, unlike casual drug use, is no longer a matter of free choice. “Functionally you’ve moved into a different state, a state of compulsive drug use,” says Alan Leshner, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Drug use really isn’t a choice of morality. By interview with a counselor at a drug rehabilitation center “Drug addiction is a mental disorder with a physical allergy.” When an addict doesn’t use they become ill physically, muscles tighten, sweats and stomach pains, vomiting and many other flu like symptoms surface. Then the voice in the brain begins to talk to them and it is a vicious cycle of emotional stress. The abuser can use at parties and on special occasions. He or she may like to use when they chose, but if they do not use drugs they do not have a mental relapse or physical discomforts.

When an addict puts down the drug they are not cured, they are only sober. For this reason many addicts must undergo either a 12 step program or have the support of a drug counselor. An abuser can stop using at any given time and never pick up again. The National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Medical Association all define this state of driven, compulsive use as the essence of addiction. Someone who abuses drugs may suffer negative consequences from using, as the addict does, but generally can and does stop when these consequences become too severe. The addict may be unable to stop, even after negative consequences, without medical and/or behavioral help. Says Steven Hyman, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health, “An alcoholic taking a drink looks like anyone else engaged in that behavior, but what’s happening in his or her head is different.” He or she is in the grip of a powerful compulsion that may lead to a binge. (Firshein, Janet) Some have characterized addiction as a behavioral choice and can be controlled voluntarily.

There is an interview with Gene M Heyman a professor at Harvard University, as the conversation around his ideas of addiction being a voluntary decision and why anyone would want to volunteer to be an addict. Gene Hymens findings are and what they mean. The author argues what has been said about addiction in so many studies, “drug addiction is a Disease” this means it is not a choice. Heyman states it is simply an act of voluntary choice. While he does not pretend to be a policy expert, he does believe that treatment should consist of non-drug activities to lower the value of the “drug.” (Akst, Daniel) Heyman states, “In a most impressive display of brain technology, scientists have used scanning technologies to observe metabolic activity of the brain in action. In a typical demonstration, addicts are shown drug related videos that depict people handling crack pipes and needles. Brain scans capture the viewer’s reaction to these provocative images and represent it as glowing Technicolor splotches of color that represent activation in drug sensitized brain regions. (Videos of neutral contact depict no such activity.)”

Heyman goes on to make his claim that this proves that addiction is not a brain state it is a behavior. (Leshner) It’s not strange or unlikely that as soon as a person hears the word’s addiction, they are interpreted immediately as a negative and a stigma is automatically attached to the individual with the addiction. In the article called “Drug Addiction: A Brain disease?” I have found that there are studies that define “drug addiction, “as a compulsion to take drugs. There are many biological factors that are indications of “drug addiction” being a form of a mental disease do to the lack of control one has in their behavior. “Drug addiction” affects even the neurotransmitters that one uses to learn or for memory.

The studies go on and on and do to the behavioral components there are some scientists and other professionals who seem hesitant to call “drug addiction” a brain disease. (Pietas’, Nicole) Some say it is a disease some say it’s a choice. None the less, he disease of addiction has become such the problem in the United States of America it is considered the most costly and damaging DISEASE by the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

This kind of money being delegated for these drug addicts and alcoholics is alarming. If not a disease than what is it? The evidence and research has been done. The brain behaves differently in an addict. When one ingests drugs one of the changes is the rise in available levels of certain neurotransmitters associated with feelings of pleasure. Key among these is dopamine; a naturally occurring neuro-transmitter that some scientists now think is implicated in most of the basic human experiences of pleasure.

The pleasure of a kiss, a bowl of favorite ice cream, and a compliment may all be related to a rise in dopamine levels in the normal person’s brain. Drugs of abuse also boost dopamine levels. When a person takes a hit of crack cocaine or a drag on a cigarette the drug causes a spike in dopamine levels in the brain, and a rush of euphoria, or pleasure. While it’s not the only chemical involved in drug abuse, experts have come to believe that dopamine is the crucial one.

The damage is truly done over time as neurotransmitters are not replaced pain and suffering becomes more real when drugs are not present. The cycle of addiction is so cruelly painful. How can one assume or argue that this is a choice? We would be claiming that 600,000 people currently addicted to heroin today are just gluttons for punishment.

Is there a cure for this disease? Unfortunately, no cure up to date, but recovery is possible with persistence, guidance and reinforcement as learned in an interview with Charlotte Doe, an ex addict turned CDAC Certified Counselor of Drug and Alcohol addiction, at Spectrum Health, a methadone rehabilitation center. The question is how bad does one want recovery? When asked, what was her most challenging responsibility; her response was being able to know when someone wasn’t ready and knowing that any day could be their last. She explained how there is no one rule in how to counsel an addict it’s not found in a text book, and no two addicts are the same. Her best gift to offer is being able to identify with the addict from experience. Charlotte also believes strongly in that meetings and step work are incredibly important.

Putting the drug down is only the beginning of a long road ahead. The experience strength and hope from a recovering addict and a drug treatment counselor is how this addict is giving back to society. The sad part is that some haven’t truly hit “rock bottom” and until they do, they will not be ready. Hence, the addict relapsing, this is a term of when an addict puts down the drugs for a period of time to endure recovery and has a setback. There is an active addict which we will call, John Doe, who I had the pleasure of speaking with who shared with me the pain and suffering he goes through. He has attempted recovery numerous times, but just can’t seem to find a way to stay clean. He knows that when he is in recovery, for example inpatient, he can stay clean. The problem is once subjected to “life on lifes terms” its back to square one. He also admits that until his enablers, those who make his using possible, stop being providers than he will continue using.

Again, hearing those words straight from the mouth of an addict one can agree that until an addict Hits “rock bottom” there may not be a chance for recovery. Charlotte said it best, an enabler is cheating the addict of his/her “Rock Bottom”. Tough love is the key in a situation like Johns. His enablers might need to take a step back and let John go through his process. Being addicted can’t be a very pleasurable habit. It’s costly, you have to answer to the drugs regularly, no vacation without them, no chance of separation from the substance while sick and suffering. You are no longer your own boss, the drugs are. Unfortunately for the addict people continue to think it’s primarily a moral and poor Choice caused by being a degenerate and having lack of willpower.

As learned in the research addiction is a disease that Causes addicts to have no regard for consequences and to abandoned everyone and everything with no control. Addiction is a disease that causes changes in the brain, which then drive certain behaviors, taking the drug compulsively, but addicts can learn to change the behavior. We wouldn’t blame a person with a heart disease for having a heart attack. But we would guide them into better habits; a healthy diet, exercise, and making sure they are complying with medication.

The same with an addict, we can blame them for being sick, but we should encourage and make them responsible for their recovery. The disease itself cannot be cured but can be treated. It’s been said that the public has little sympathy for addicts, but “whether you like the person or not, you’ve got to deal with their problem as an illness.” Given the views of the professionals and personally affected individuals has your opinion of addiction been altered?

Akst, Daniel The 1eBoston Glob, August 9, 2009Akst Daniel www.Boston.com/ bostonglobe/ idea /articles/2009/08/09

Campbell, William G. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Nov2003, Vol. 48 Issue 10, p669- 674, 6p, 1 Chart; (AN 11539480)
Falk,Daniel; Hsiao-Ye Yi; Susanne Hiller-Sturmhöfel. Alcohol Research & Health, 2008, Vol. 31 Issue 2, p100-110, 11p, 4

Feske,Ulrike; Tarter, Ralph; Kirisci, Levent; Pilkonis, Paul. American Journal on Addictions, Mar2006, Vol. 15 Issue 2, p131-137, 7p, 1

Firshein, Janet, PBS Online

Leshner Science 3 October 1997: 45 DOI:10.1126/science.278.5335.45, www.scienceAAAS.org the Addiction Is a Brain Disease, and It Matters

Miriam-Webster, I. (2002). Merriam-Webster’s Third New International Dictionary Unabridged. Retrieved www.mwu.eb.com.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/mwu Pietas, Nicole. Drug Addiction: A Brain Disease? Serendip Biology 1/17/08

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