Is addiction a choice or disease?

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Being that there are approximately 21.5 million Americans who struggle with addiction each year, one would venture to say that substance abuse is a relevant topic in today’s world. Even more troubling, 80% of those same people also struggle with an issue with alcohol.

Eight million people struggle with what is called a co-occurring disorder, or “double trouble.” One question that continues to raise many arguments though is addiction a choice? Or, is it something more?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says addiction is hard-wired into our brains. Brains are wired to ensure that we remember and repeat things associated with pleasure and rewards. But what most people don’t know, abusing drugs and/or alcohol can literally rewire the brain.

Overstimulating our brain with drugs and/or alcohol produces euphoric effects which strongly reinforce the behavior of drug/alcohol use — thus, teaching the user to repeat it. Over time, the brain begins to produce less and less dopamine than it once did, causing the person to use more and more to feel “normal” again.