Is addiction a disease or a choice? Some say answers are not black and white

Published: Aug. 24, 2018 at 6:45 PM EDT
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Is addiction a disease or is it a choice? A question that stirs much debate with both sides offering reasonable arguments. Some say the answers are not black and white.

Tim Hall, who is in long-term recovery, said, "I feel like I had a choice when I first came into addiction and first started to use. After that, it was hard to stop."

Renee Ratliff, the clinical coordinator for Mountain Comprehensive Care Center's drug rehab facility, Mountain Center for Recover and Hope, said studies prove addiction is a disease.

"Years of study has shown there are changes that happen in the brain when addiction comes into the picture. And some of these changes are irreversible," explained Ratliff.

Though she says some changes are irreversible, Ratliff said those changes be managed.

"It's an ongoing treatment. That it's not curable but it's treatable when you use the disease concept," said Ratliff.

Treatment is available in a variety of ways, the clinical coordinator said.

"Individuals in recovery can be treated with becoming involved in a 12-step program, spiritual programs, etc.," said Ratliff.

Daily treatment applied to the disease of addiction is comparable to other illnesses, according to Ratliff.

"I have high blood pressure and obesity, which is an issue for me. My overeating led to that and now has become a disease," said Ratliff.

Ratliff says she has no issue getting treatment for her disease.

"Nowhere do I ever walk into a doctor's office and have a doctor say I'm not going to treat you because you caused this issue by overeating," said Ratliff. "But people in addiction issues and drug dependency face that every day from our society."

Marcia Morgan, who is in long-term recovery, says opposition only makes matters worse.

"When the addict already feels different and they already feel alone, and they don't even understand themselves, what's wrong if their own family harm them or throw them down," said Morgan. "Then it's almost like they feel they are not worthy of recovery. Not worth saving."

Hall points out an additional benefit to the disease concept of addiction.

"If it's bringing funding in. If it's bringing awareness. If it's bringing research in. This research and funding is going to help somebody's family members," said Hall. "It could be somebody's family members who say "I don't think this is a disease."

Hall went on to say at the end of the day, if the disease of addiction concept is helping people and not harming anyone, then why not support it.

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