Addiction: Disease or Choice?


Alcoholism and Addiction: a disease or a choice?

Filed under: Uncategorized — CD @ 11:26 PM

It is an ongoing debate whether or not alcoholism and addiction are truly diseases as opposed to choices made by the user.

Some argue that users get “hooked” on substances, rendering them unable to stop usage. They argue that users display symptoms that verify that alcoholism and addiction are, in fact, diseases.

Others say that nothing in your chemical makeup determines that you will be addicted to a substance, and it is a choice to use them, and a sign of weakness to be unable to stop.

These two extremes provide for very little common ground, and many often latch onto the side they see as the most plausible. Based on your research, what do you think? Is addiction truly a disease, or is it a choice?


  1. Addiction is a disease. It is not a choice. Addiction is a heavy dependence (both physically and mentally) on a certain substance. Whether it be drugs, alcohol, shopping, or sex, having an addiction can seriously impact your day to day activities. Addictions are not about will power. The ideology of, “the addict could change if he wanted to,” is a serious misunderstanding of the long term dynamic of addictive disorder ( It is a defect in the midbrain.

    Comment by slabua — 11/20/2009 @ 1:11 PM

  2. How do you classify the basis of an addiction than? Is one born with their addictions? Setting aside the cases of babies having addictions because of their mother’s habits, I don’t think a person is born with an addiction to a physical stimulant such as drugs or alcohol. A person is born clean of those substances. It is something they do not know of until they choose to drink the drink or take the drug. Drugs and Alcohol have addictive contents, but just as one has made the choice to start using, they can also choose to stop using or to get help.

    Comment by cdijusto — 11/27/2009 @ 7:30 PM

    • I would have to agree. Addiction can’t be classified as a disease. If addicition or even alcoholism was classified as a disease their would be clear symptoms to classify the disease before hand. For instance when cancer is diagnosed there are prior symptoms before hand (such as tumors) but with addiction, symptoms only set in after the drug or alcohol has already been in the body’s system. Therefore I strongly believe addiction or alcoholism can’t be put into the category of a disease.

      Comment by M.Curcio — 12/11/2009 @ 1:28 PM

  3. I must say that I have to agree with cdijusto on this one. Even though some believe that drug addiction follows the disease model, I believe it does not fit in with regards to one’s ability to control. Think about the way one seeks help for their addictions; counseling or group help. By putting addiction under the disease category it is almost insinuating that those who have addictions are helpless and have absolutely no control over his or her situation. True, it may be difficult, but many people are able to stop abuse. I know someone personally who initiated the break from cigarettes with his own will, without counseling, and has not smoked for over 25 years. I believe this speaks volumes against those who believe that drug addiction is a disease. Individuals who have diseases such as lung disease are not able to say “you know what, I don’t want to have this disease any longer, I am going to make it stop”. Of course the battle with addiction is not that easy either; becoming clean is a struggle. Many drug addicts have cravings and sadly many never are able to end their addictions. But, considering that some are able to through willpower, I believe that one cannot classify an addiction as a disease.

    Comment by mchilli — 11/29/2009 @ 11:58 PM

    • You all make some very thought provoking points but I would have to agree with slabua on this one. In my personal opinion I see addiction as a disease, maybe not one in the traditional sense but rather a disease none the less. Now I’m not going to say it’s up to the same caliber as serious medical issues but it can definitely be seen as a disease of the personality or rather a personality disorder. Yes it’s officially at the beginning a choice but as time goes on drugs effect the mind and change a person into someone completely different from where they started at point one.

      Comment by koelsner — 12/01/2009 @ 12:07 AM

  4. Refering to what CDijusto said, yes addiction is genetic. Did you know that if a pregnant woman smokes, does drugs, or drinks while she is pregnant, her new born baby will go through withdrawal symptoms? Addiction is within the genes that remains inactive until the first drink is sipped or the first drug is taken.

    Refering to what MChili states, some people are capable of overcomming their “need,” but that doesn’t nessecerily mean the addiction is gone. It’s there, but it is supressed by the greater mind.

    Now what I don’t understand, is why you both are referring addiction to just drinking and smoking. There are plenty of other things people can become addicted to for example; shopping, using the internet, caffine, sex, work, theft, gambling, and exercise. “We all engage in addictive behaviors to some degree” (

    If you follow my link (above), then you can read all about the defect in the midbrain that causes addictive behaviors to emerge.

    Comment by slabua — 12/01/2009 @ 9:07 PM

  5. SLabua, you seem to be overlooking the fact that I stated, “Setting aside the cases of babies having addictions because of their mother’s habits…”. While that concept is true, it is not relevant to classify ALL addictions as genetic. Not all addicts are born to a mother that is an addict.

    According to an article I came across in the New York Times penned by a professor of Psychology at Florida State University, addictions shares many common traits with personality disorders. There are several personality traits that may contribute to addiction. They are (but are not limited to):

    “- Impulsive behavior, difficulty in delaying gratification, an antisocial personality and a disposition toward sensation seeking.
    – A high value on nonconformity combined with a weak commitment to the goals for achievement valued by the society.
    – A sense of social alienation and a general tolerance for deviance.
    – A sense of heightened stress. This may help explain why adolescence and other stressful transition periods are often associated with the most severe drug and alcohol problems”

    For referencing purposes, here is the article:

    I think that this is plausible evidence that addiction is a product of a person’s personality. Someone who is easily pressured into things may be more likely to try a substance in the first place. Of course that notion works both ways; someone so quick to follow the crowd may heed the warnings of others and stop usage.

    Comment by cdijusto — 12/01/2009 @ 11:19 PM

  6. Responding to this argument I recently read and interesting article about fish and drugs. It sounds crazy but it actually brings to light new evidence that support the notion that addiction is a disease not just a choice. Tristan Darland, a researcher at Harvard University put cocaine on a pad and placed it into a fish tank for research. The fish seemed to draw immediately to that one spot and even after the pad was removed the fish still remained. The article then goes on to explain that he then bred a family of fish but this time altered one gene. These new fish unlike their aquatic counterparts completely, ignored the cocaine. “These fish don’t know anything about peer pressure. They either respond or they don’t respond to the drug,” -Darland states.

    This article Can be found here:

    Comment by koelsner — 12/02/2009 @ 11:59 PM

  7. In response to the Harvard experiment, it does seem to be an interesting result. However, there are other experiments being conducted that support the other side of the argument.

    Two such experiments conducted that would seem to rule that addictions are not diseases I found in the very same article you have provided, koelsner ( One, in Canada, involved rats in two different environments that were given a choice between morphine and water. Rats in the cages chose the morphine more so than the ones in the nicer environment, who chose water. Also, Wake Forest University conducted an experiment with male monkeys who lived together for a few months and who created a “monkey social hierarchy” if you will. The monkeys who were bullied by the more dominant monkeys tended to bang a lever to get as much cocaine as possible while the “leader” monkeys did not. This seems to support the idea that other influences affect addictions, and that it is not a disease.

    The article you provided even goes on to point out that 60% of smokers have quit, which equates to 50 million Americans. I believe that when arguing that individuals who have addictions are helpless and not in control, that this statistic cannot be ignored.

    Comment by mchilli — 12/03/2009 @ 2:43 AM

  8. We shouldn’t see addiction in black or white. What I’m saying is that it’s possible that depending on the circumstances maybe addiction is a disease or choice. And even if it is a choice, we should still treat it as a disease. Lets face it, in todays standards addiction is still here whether we want it or not it. Drugs, alcohol, TV, eating are just a few things can be an addictive substance. Saying that everyone is able to stop would be nice but it’s simply not so. Willpower seems to be the key to the equation. Do we obtain will power from who we are as a person or can it come from our traits and brain chemistry?


    Comment by koelsner — 12/04/2009 @ 3:24 AM

  9. I’m not saying that everyone should be able to stop usage of all substances. Obviously it all comes down to a person’s strength of willpower. Needless to say, there are different levels of an addiction. Someone who must be hospitalized because their usage is so severe will obviously not have the capability to just choose to stop. That being said, addiction becomes a disease after the substance has taken hold. It is not, however, something you are born with. Yes, the genes may be present in one’s chemical makeup, but they do not become active until after he or she decides to use the substance. Therefore, being that it is ultimately a choice to use a substance, a choice where one knows the consequences, the addiction itself must be a choice too.

    Comment by cdijusto — 12/04/2009 @ 1:08 PM

  10. CDijusto, thank you for acknowledging the genes are present. But as far as choosing to use a drug that first time goes, have you considered medical possibilities? Perhaps in order to get better, the doctor perscribed some marijuana or steriods. Now I’m not saying that sickness is an excuse, but it can be that factor that brings out the addict in a person. All in all CDijusto, i hope we expanded your views on the original question you asked. MChili, it was a pleasure hearing your opions. And a special thanks to KOelsner for being on my side. Addiction overall is a nasty business and whether we are all born with the traits or they are an aquirred state of mind, it is an experience that is best not had.

    Comment by slabua — 12/04/2009 @ 1:19 PM

  11. I see what you are saying slabua. I do not agree with your use of the examples of marijuana and steroids however, because both marijuana and steroids are not physically addicting (some new studies have came out that may suggest that anabolic steroids may be addictive however, But that in itself is something to consider. The fact that certain drugs cause severe withdrawal symptoms while others do not. There is no argument that addicting drugs have potential to have both a negative physical and mental effect on the user if abused, but still, I do not believe that this solidifies its classification as a disease. The definition of a disease provided by Merriam Webster is “a condition of the living animal or plant body or of one of its parts that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptom”. Severe addictions do indeed impair normal functioning, and does fit in with this definition I will agree. But this is also very vague. Does the act of drinking a cup of coffee, which has effect on normal functioning, classify the reaction as a disease? Whats more telling would be if addictions fit in with a medical model of disease. Some professionals have put forth the argument that addictions fit in with the dispositional disease model. Alcoholism, for example’s sake, is argued by some, to follow this disease model which is used in U.S Treatment. Yes, even though there may seem to be loss of control, clearly there is potential for one to CONTROL their addictions, or as you say “keep them at bay”, and thus, it cannot be accurately described as a disease. Regardless of our beliefs, however, we all can agree that the battle with addiction is not easy by any means, and scientists perhaps, should keep working on understanding more about the nature of addictions.

    Info of Dispositional Disease model found here…

    Alcoholism: Toward a Better Disease Model
    William R. Miller
    Psychology of Addictive Behaviors
    1993, Vol. 7, No. 2 129-136

    Comment by mchilli — 12/04/2009 @ 11:59 PM

  12. I believe that addiction is at first a choice but then later becomes a disease. The user at first makes the decision to use drugs but as the body becomes dependent upon these drugs that choice is no longer a choice. It then becomes a disease as the body craves the drug it has become used to.

    Comment by Samantha L — 12/11/2009 @ 1:27 PM

  13. i feel that addiction is a not a diseace but a choice. it was your choice in the first place to take that drug or that first shot. disease is something you are born with and you cant get ride of. it all depends on the person you are the how willing you are to be clean. if your didnt take the drug in the first place you wouldent of had your addiction problem. step up for your actions and realize that you need to change for the people around you.

    Comment by hubbert comberdale — 12/11/2009 @ 1:29 PM

  14. I agree with the first post, it is a choice. I believe that it gradually develops into a disease. The addict did not have to become addicted if they did not choose to take that one sip of alcohol or that first intake of the drug. I feel that no one is born with this disease, but some believe the opposite. All these substances have addictive ingredients in them, which triggers something in the internal organs or functioning in the brain, which causes the disease.

    Comment by magneri — 12/11/2009 @ 1:32 PM

  15. koelsner, you prove a good point, we can’t look at addiction in one way. There are multiple things that can effect a persons addiction. Some may feel that it is a choice, and it partly is; a person can choose to start using drugs. But, to be addicted to drugs is not a choice, if people could choose to be addicted, why would they with it’s horrible side effects? A persons body begins to crave the drugs, their mind takes over and controls their physical abilities. When the person no longer had the cognitive abilites to chose not to do drugs, that is when they are addicted. At first, addiction could not be fit into the Disease Model, but after more research it turns out it can be; therefore addiction is a disease.

    Comment by jcaruso — 12/11/2009 @ 1:33 PM

  16. Based on research, I strongly believe that addiction is nothing more than a choice. People claim that addiction should be labeled as a disease, but can we choose to have diseases? Someone doesn’t choose to have cancer or diabetes. Addiction is a choice and all choices are behaviors, thus the behavior is intentional from the individual. People call their addiction a “disease” when they refuse to take responsibility for their bad choices. The theory that addiction is a disease is also not scientifically proven. ADDICTION IS A CHOICE!!!

    Comment by RFF143 — 12/11/2009 @ 1:33 PM

  17. Addiction, in the long run, is a disease. However, it is up to the person to initially chose to use the drug, drink alchohol, or do whatever they are addicted to. In the long term it is infact a disease. People with drug addictions show withdrawl symptoms which does show that something in the body does infact require that substance to function normally. Even if to other people the usage of the drug does the complete opposite that it would do to people who need the drug. It is at first a choice, then quickly develops into a strong disease.

    Comment by giardina12 — 12/11/2009 @ 1:33 PM

  18. Addiction is like a disease, i think. There is no way it’s a choice. People need to realize the facts.

    Comment by Chris Canovor — 12/11/2009 @ 1:34 PM

  19. Alcholism and addiction is a disease. It may be a choice to pick up that drink and drink it but what it leads to is what counts. You can choose to drink one drink or go as far to drink 10 or 20 drinks. Same goes for drugs a person can choose to snort the drugs but its can go only so far.In the end its all about finding that person help even though it may be a challange for the helper depending on how long this problem has been occuring and how addicted the person is.

    Comment by cptak — 12/11/2009 @ 1:35 PM

  20. I agree with mchilli. The fact that people can control their addiction on their own will shows a person’s choice over the addiction. The first time you chose to use a drug is definately a choice, agreed. But when people say that the times after that is not in their control, i have to disagree. Yes, you will have cravings for the drug, but there is no force in the drug that control’s your actions to take the drug.

    Comment by jfavia — 12/11/2009 @ 1:35 PM

  21. I agree with that cdijusto said. I feel like an addict makes a decision to abuse drugs in the begining of it all, but once the drugs kick in the decion becomes a habbit. Which then the habbit becomes hard to control. The addict without thinking continuos to abuse drugs and grown into relying the drugs effect.

    Comment by icaprari — 12/11/2009 @ 1:36 PM

  22. regarding what cdijusto stated “Therefore, being that it is ultimately a choice to use a substance, a choice where one knows the consequences, the addiction itself must be a choice too.” i agree with this. but at the same time i agree with slabua and koelsner; true, the first step to addiction is taking the drug, etc, but that choice morphs into a disease

    Comment by dontchangeme22 — 12/11/2009 @ 1:36 PM

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