Addiction is a mental condition that occurs as a result of a continued consumption of highly addicted substances that can alter your brain chemistry and leaves users dependent on their drug of choice

Addiction is a mental condition that occurs as a result of a continued consumption of highly addicted substances that can alter your brain chemistry and leaves users dependent on their drug of choice. Have you ever sat down and contemplated the issue of addiction? There are those who stand behind the idea that drug addiction and substance abuse isn’t a matter of choice. According to most medical associations, including the American Medical Association and the American Society of Addiction medicine, addiction is defined as a disease (CASAColumbia/2012). Similar to other illnesses such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes, drug addiction is arguably a self inflicted disease. Due to many environmental, genetic or decision making factors drug abuse is difficult to cope with, making it even harder for Americans to stay completely drug free. Genetics in particular play just as strong of a role as environment does when it comes to the issue of substance abuse. Studies show that genetics alone are responsible for approximately 40 to 60 percent of the predisposition an addict carries toward substance abuse. But do genetics have a direct influence on economic status as well? Wealth breeds wealth, and arguably the same could be said about education. With higher income families being more likely to have children who attend college, another study shows that higher SAT scores correlate with higher household incomes across the board (National Institute on Drug Abuse). Addiction occurs in a variety of environments and can impact different kinds of people from all walks of life. Stress is another leading factor in your environment that may cause people to turn to drugs. Certain activities that can help relieve stress can prove to be both beneficial, or harmful to any individual. Those who live a high-stress life, may find themselves searching for ways to relieve their stress. And oftentimes, the cheapest and easiest accessible form of stress relief are legal, or illegal substances.
The most common stereotype is that all or if not a majority of addicts are poor, uneducated or unemployed (The Atlantic). Elaborating even further on this theory, many automatically assume that addiction itself is a disease that only impacts the weak-willed and lazy. However, the 23.1 million people in the United States who are dependent on both legal, and illegal substances paint an entirely different picture. (2018 Transformations Treatment Center). Although there are many factors that may lead to substance abuse, there should be no excuse for over 20 million people in the United States to suffer from the self inflicted disease known as drug addiction. However, those who view addiction as a personal choice tend to look down upon drug addicts.
Research has shown that consuming drugs and alcohol during a pregnancy can lead to a number of health problems such as a low birth weight, fetal death, premature birth, and miscarriage. But in some cases, the mother’s addiction is passed on to her child, and the baby’s first worldly experiences are withdrawal symptoms and even rehab. (Kelly Tatara). There are many ways to cope and deal with drug addiction even after a drug addicted baby is born. This scenario just simply means the child will grow up facing more challenges, and will be even more likely to be an addict. Despite the many factors that drive so many Americans to turn to drugs as a form of relief or entertainment, it is still the choices they make that lead up to their potential problems. Whether or not they choose to resolve their problems through their motivation to become a better person or take the easy way out and turn to drugs, it is a choice to do drugs. How their decision to abuse these substances affects those around them, entirely depends on the situation. Although there are many examples of environmental, and in rare cases genetic factors that can lead to future drug addiction, it is clear that addiction is a self inflicted disease as a result of human behavior. Evidence that can be used to support this claim can be found in plain sight. Addicts do in fact become physically dependent on their drug of choice due to a change in brain chemistry after continuous use of any highly addictive drug.
Addiction causes a powerful influence on the brain that ultimately manifests itself in a variety of ways. For example, the craving for the object of addiction, the loss of control over extensive use, and the continuous involvement with the substance have short term rewarding effects, but also comes with many physical and emotional consequences. While overcoming addiction is incredibly difficult, it is possible. Although the process of overcoming addiction are most times long, slow and complex, it revolves around whether or not that individual is willing to put in the effort to make the positive change in their lives or remain enslaved by their dependency on drugs. In the 1930’s, when researchers were first investigating what had caused addictive behavior, they came up with the theory that people who developed addictions overtime were somehow morally flawed or lacked willpower and understanding (Health/Harvard). Overcoming addiction involved self discipline and would need help from others through alternative rewards, and victims of addiction often times replaced their bad habits with good ones. Today we recognize addiction as a chronic disease that alters and controls both brain structure and function. For many years, experts’ research showed that only alcohol and powerful drugs were enough to result in addiction. However, neuroimaging and more recent research have proven that certain behaviors and activities that trigger the pleasure centers in our brains cause addiction as well. Examples of such behaviors include sex, gambling and shopping. Although these activities seem rather normal, excessive participation in any activity can be risky and will possibly result in many problems later on (Health/Harvard).
Everyday we live our lives based on the choices we make. Decisions we make can be as simple as the way we speak to one another, or what we eat for lunch. However, they can also mean the difference between life and death. For a recovering heroin addict sitting at home alone, would they rather read a book or shoot up a lethal cocktail of chemicals to cope with the everyday stress and withdrawal that they fight? The theory of social behavior mostly revolves around the idea that people make decisions based on resources and wealth. So it can be safe to assume that if an addict was offered a book or their drug of choice, any addict would take their chances with the drug.
In 2004, another study showed by biopsychologist Abigail A. Baird and Univ. of Waterloo cognitive psychologist Jonathan A. Fugelsang showed that the “quick decision system” programmed into our brains matures later than other systems (Eric Wargo). When they had interviewed people of a variety of ages and backgrounds, they were asked to quickly respond to simple questions such as “Is it a good idea to set your hair on fire?” Or “Is it a good idea to swim with sharks?” After gathering several responses, they discovered that younger people took about a sixth of a second longer than full grown adults to give their obvious answers. It has been proven that for most people, our “gist-processing” centers will not fully mature until we reach our 20’s. This is clearly evidence that supports the claim that younger generations tend to make more risky and poor decisions. Teenagers decide to have unprotected sex, use drugs, drink or smoke. Younger generations are bombarded with warning sand statistics with every intent to mold them into drug free, responsible, and contributors to society. Despite this, they continue to choose to rebel and do as they please which could result in a dangerous and unpredictable outcome. Adults, in comparison to teenagers, tend to make their choices by going with their gut and are able to make a simple black and white judgement on the possible outcomes. Although teenagers are capable of doing this too, statistics still show that experimenting with drugs at an early age is common, but often damaging to that person, and those who care for them.
Today in society, we are heavily dependent on the internet and social media in order to go about our lives in the fastest, and most efficient way. Social media platforms give individuals the freedom of speech and expression, quite literally. Extensive studies have shown that american teenagers from ages 13-17 on a typical day will spend at least 75% of their time on social media platforms. Social networking sites arguably promote the use of drugs, drinking and smoking. Social media today, can be described as double edged sword. Although it can be used to positively interact with just about anyone, it can also be used as a tool to advertise and distribute drugs and promotes illegal activities. Despite the fact that the internet can be both a useful tool to be successful, or a self destructive weapon that can ruin lives, It is ultimately your decision to take part in illegal activities. It is your choice what you decide to put in your body, and the choices you make are a direct reflection of who you are as a person. The things that people post through social media certainly have an impact on what others may say or do. For example, when people advertise drugs, post about the parties they went to and the things they did, others will portray their actions as okay. If one or more people involve themselves with drugs or parties, it ultimately makes what they’re doing seem okay and other people may feel compelled to follow in their footsteps. Drug use becomes a trend, and when a large group of people are spreading this trend around, others will engage and are at risk of becoming addicted. Although some claim that they are not drug addicts and can control their urges to do drugs, it is always the same people that surround themselves with the same crowd and they tend to do the same things together regularly which may become a habit, and can lead to over usage and addiction (Emily Singer/The Atlantic). Despite the fact that using drugs is a choice, environmental circumstances influence the decisions people make, and can alter or destroy their lives forever.
The biggest question regarding addiction is why people believe it is a disease rather than a choice. Addiction impacts roughly 40% of the American population in the Western World (Lewis, Marc). Although there are many forms of addiction each with their own severity, users will always face good and bad consequences as a result of their actions.