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Addiction Can Actually Choose You

Misunderstandings create obstacles to treatment

When we hear about tragic events involving individuals and their drug or alcohol addiction, there is often a knee-jerk reaction that we rarely say out loud. That’s sad—but they CHOSE that path, so they can’t blame it on anything or anyone else.

It’s hard to imagine why someone wouldn’t avoid clearly dangerous substances. So we tend to dismiss such behavior as thrill-seeking, rebellion, or other forms of reckless—yet intentional—actions.

Genetic roots

However, we are coming to understand today that addiction isn’t simply a behavioral or social problem. While addiction can often lead to life-threatening or criminal acts, it is at its core, a neurological condition. In other words, you are born with the pre-wiring. You can’t choose if you want it or not, or the degree to which you are susceptible to addictive behavior. And that addiction can manifest itself in not only opioids or alcohol but in nicotine, food, gambling, shopping, video games, etc.

Furthermore, addiction is now recognized as a primary disease by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, which means that it isn’t directly caused by other health problems. And like heart disease or asthma, it is also a chronic disease, thus requiring treatment and attention over a person’s lifespan, and cannot be cured by a procedure or pharmaceutical solution.

Unfortunately, the stigmatization and moral judgments that frequently accompany addiction and overdoses often stand in the way of real understanding and proper assistance. And while progress in building greater awareness of the physiological roots of addiction is being made, there remains considerable ground to be covered before widespread public knowledge and acceptance is achieved.

The sooner the general public becomes better informed of the actual foundations of addiction, the greater the chances that individuals will be able to readily access the help they need.

Identifying where choices can be made

MichelleSo while predisposition to addiction isn’t entirely within one’s control, seeking recovery and steps to managing one’s condition is most definitely a conscious choice that can be made. The elements of addressing addiction run a similar to path to those taken by other people with genetically based health issues, such as heart problems or celiac disease. These include modifying behaviors and seeking alternative choices that prevent triggering.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has defined four dimensions that support lifelong recovery and can be accessed by those who make the decision to treat their addiction. These include:

  • Health—practicing abstinence and making healthy choices
  • Home—having a stable and safe place to live
  • Purpose—engaging in meaningful and constructive daily activities
  • Community—being connected with people who can provide support and hope

These and other components of recovery can be found on the SAMHSA website.


The sooner the general public becomes better informed of the actual foundations of addiction, the greater the chances that individuals will be able to readily access the help they need. While addictive behaviors must be addressed to ensure the health and safety of both individuals and communities, understanding that the foundational causes lie in brain chemistry—not deliberate recklessness—is the key to realizing more recovery success stories.

If you or someone you know in Frederick County, Maryland is struggling with opioid dependence issues, please contact the Frederick County Health Department at 301-600-1755 or call 2-1-1 for help and treatment options 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Airtime and other charges may apply for cell phone users. Mobile users may also call 1-866-411-6803.

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