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Is Addiction a Disease or a Choice?

A woman sits on a swing in the park with the beauty of the fall foliage behind her.
Freedom is the opposite of addiction—and it’s available to everyone.


When it comes to this question, there are definitely two camps.

The National Institute of Health states very clearly that addiction is a disease. But many researchers, doctors and just plain old regular people disagree.

Someone with cancer can’t choose to stop having cancer. There are, however, some people battling addiction who simply decided to stop—and succeed. (It should be noted that this can be medically dangerous in some cases, especially with severe alcoholism.)

So which is it? Is addiction a disease beyond a person’s control? Or is it a moral failing?

The Middle Ground

Science has not even conclusively figured out if gluten is bad for us or not, so it’d be a big jump to think that we have this whole addiction thing nailed down—with no room for debate.

So let’s just set aside The Big Question for a moment and do a bit of speculating.

What if it turns out that addiction is not a true disease?

Does that mean it is—like people used to say—a moral failing? Absolutely not. We know with certainty that many conditions lead to an increased risk of addiction. These include depression, post traumatic stress disorder and attention deficit disorder—to name a few.

Our days of moralizing addiction should be behind us—no matter what.

But what if addiction really and truly is a disease? Does that mean we will always be at risk and vulnerable and weak? Of course not. The whole goal of any decent treatment program is to give you the tools to be strong—to take control of your life and keep it.

So Is Addiction a Disease?

It depends on whom you ask. Mainstream medicine says (mostly) yes. But there are a lot of intelligent people arguing the other side.

Here’s what we do know (and maybe it’s all we really need to know): Most people who battle addiction need some help learning how to live a new way. That’s especially true if there are any co-occurring conditions like depression or anxiety.

But addiction does not need to define who you are forever. That’s what it was like when you were using—your life was an endless cycle of getting, using and recovering.

The whole point of treatment is to get your life back, so that it revolves around going for a hike, reading a great book, pushing your niece on a swing, getting the job you wanted, grabbing dinner with friends, writing a book, surfing, learning to cook, playing the guitar, hanging out in a hammock… you get it, right?

The whole point is that you will be free.

Hope and Healing at The Raleigh House

The Raleigh House is a residential treatment center located in Denver that believes addiction isn’t just a physical problem. Our master’s level trained therapists get to the root cause of addiction and will help you develop a strategy to manage and enjoy life without drugs or alcohol. Fill out our form or contact us today to learn more about the treatment programs at The Raleigh House.

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