For people who have never struggled with drug or alcohol addiction, it’s easy to classify the cause of substance abuse as a simple lack of willpower. It is often assumed that someone involved in addiction continues to use because he or she doesn’t want to quit. In some cases, people become frustrated and angry with a loved one who can’t stop drinking or using drugs: seeing them as weak and powerless.
Addiction as a Disease
In reality, addiction is a chronic brain disease. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains the scientific differences between the brain of an addicted individual and the brain of someone who has never suffered from addiction. Research shows that the density of dopamine transporters in a part of the brain called the striatum are noticeably different in an addict even after he or she has been sober for several months.
Scientists still don’t fully understand the mechanisms of addiction, but genetics play a major role. The University of Utah reports that several biological differences make certain people more vulnerable to addiction than others. There are also some genes that appear to offer a protective benefit. For example, alcoholism is relatively rare in adults who have two copies of the ALDH*2 gene variation.
Saying addiction is caused by a lack of willpower is like saying someone who has cancer, diabetes, or high blood pressure is sick because they don’t really want to be healthy. Addiction isn’t a character flaw. It’s an illness that requires treatment.
Finding the Strength to Recover
Although addiction is not caused by a lack of willpower, chemically dependent people do need to find the will to recover. If you are struggling with substance abuse, the first step toward a better future is realizing that you need help. When you admit that you don’t have all the answers and see that there’s no shame in letting others help, you are demonstrating that will to recover.
Coast to Coast Recovery Centers offer a wide range of services for people struggling with substance abuse, including 30-day rehabs and dual diagnosis programs. Call us at 800-210-8229 to learn more about the treatment options that best fit your needs.