Drug addiction- A choice or a disease!
There are loud cries all over the globe of addiction being a disease which cannot be stopped without treatment. There are doubts regarding this statement because any addiction, whether to alcohol or drugs cannot be a disease and if we call it such then either we need to over look the arguments in regard to disease or we need to bring about a new definition to the term disease. While disease is a physiological mal function which causes symptoms that are distressful, addiction has no such abnormalities and it is simply a compulsive seeking of drugs and using it in spite of knowing its harmful consequences. However, some are of the opinion that addiction can be called a disease of the brain. This is because any drug can cause a change in the structure and functioning of the brain which can be long lasting and can also the affect the behavior of a person who is abusing drugs.
Are brain changes in an addict abnormal?
Since drugs affect the brain directly, any brain scan of a drug abuser is quite normal because whenever we are thinking anything or practicing doing something enough, there is a change in the brain. The neuronal pathways and different regions of the brain grow and even become stronger with new connections being made. This results in the various brain areas becoming less active or more depending on how much it is being used. This is a life process and there is nothing abnormal about it. Therefore, when the changes in the brain of the drug abuser are compared to the brain who does not abuse drugs, the difference is not as novel as it seems to be made. Every healthy functioning brain goes through neuro-plastic changes and is not confines to addicts only. Hence there is nothing abnormal about the changes in brain of an addict.
Drug abuse is a choice not compulsion
A drug abuser can never claim that his addict is a compulsion as if it was so, then offering him any incentive to make him abstain from drugs would not make a difference as the incentive offered is a matter of choice. If an abuser is really serious about kicking this fatal habit, he will find ways of doing it by amusing himself with other activities. For instance, a book written Heyman called Addiction: A Disorder of Choice has a study of cases of cocaine abusers who were given addiction counseling and were then offered some vouchers which they could trade in for rewards of abstaining from drugs like a sports equipment or a movie ticket- and if they proved through drug test that they were making a full effort to abstain using drugs, they would be applauded for it. It was found that initially almost 70% of abusers who had got the vouchers abstained from drugs while 20% who had not received the voucher incentive remained abstinent because of the control of the group. This itself is a proof that drug addiction is a choice and not a compulsion.