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Name: Trang Vo

Instructors name: Sarah Hughes

Course: Eng 111

Is Drug Addiction a Disease or Simply a Matter of Bad Choices?

It has been one of the most painful and confusing encounters in my life, watching my one time

best friend in and out of rehab every now and then. Before he fell victim of the menace,

whenever I saw addicts on the streets I had always thought to myself that they are simply paying

for the wrong choices and actions in their lives. I always told myself that they were in that state

because they made a choice to live that way, and went ahead to pursue actions that led them

there. However, now that it is my friend, I somewhat disagreed with my prior thoughts and

started thinking that it must be a disease. After all, doctors and multinational organizations have

proved that addiction is a disease. But I am still not quite sure if my opinion has change when it

is about the others in the streets. This is a critical dilemma situation that Gene Heyman of the

New York Times explored in a 2014 article Drug Addiction Is a Matter of Difficult Choices.

Either way that we decide to look at it, there are two sides of the equation with very strong

arguments. This paper puts these arguments against each other.

The Dilemma

Over the last three decades, a lot has been established as the main causes of extreme drug

use, and the possible remedies that can stop the dependency on drugs. However, there has not

been an agreed approach, especially because the research findings conflict largely with the most

common beliefs that surround the topic (Heyman). The most common arguments is that

addiction is a result of a relapsing brain disease from a medical perspective, while it is


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considered a result of moral weakness from another perspective. None of these has managed to

capture the true reality of addiction. This points to the fact that the search for medical cure for

addiction, or tougher jail terms is misguided. They have diverted the focus from programs that

believe that addicts can make choices to stop abusing drugs.

Why Addiction Should be Treated as a Disease

According to David Sack, a psychiatrist, addiction possesses characteristics that warrant

it a disease status. First, it is marked by frequent brain relapses, sets of behavior changes, and

cross addictions. It is also caused by genetic factors like other chronic diseases. Lastly, there are

medications that have proved effective enough to block the rewarding effects of drug use, and

thereby can decrease the drug cravings of an addict (Wise). For the cross addictions, research has

established that for individuals who have been dependent on a drug at a particular time in their

life, they are likely to depend on another drug some other time as well. Genetically, studies have

shown that genes play a significant role in determining who is a t a greater risk of becoming

addicted. For individuals who have a drunkard background, they are 40 60 percent more likely

to be alcoholics than those without such a background, which is an effect that is transferred by a

combination of multiple genes, rather than just a single dominant or recessive one (Wise).

Medically, drugs have been manufactured that have countered the rewarding effects of the drugs,

as well as blocked the withdrawal symptoms that arise after quitting the drugs. Research is even

going further and seeking to develop a vaccine that can fight addiction, with a cocaine addiction

vaccine almost becoming a breakthrough. All these are undeniably valid facts that come close to

convincing that addiction might actually be a disease.

Why Addiction Should be Considered as a Choice


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However, addiction has several twists that relate it to choices and recklessness more.

Working from people who have quit drugs, there are a lot of them who confess that they stopped

doing drugs because of financial pressures (Heyman). Some quit because they faced the threat of

legal sanctions, and others because they had family obligations, especially from parents and

children. Now this does not sound like a disease by whatever definition or description. The drug

use to excessive limits is motivated by a combination of immediate pleasure, and delayed

consequences (Siegel). But when the costs increase against other constraints, and the utility also

falls, then some people decide to halt their addictions. It is so unlike any disease to just go away

simply because the patient runs out of money or simply because they do not fancy staying with

the disease anymore.

The Way Forward

The worst bit about drug addiction is that it has dire monetary implications on the society

and the people close to the addicts. Most of the successful interventions that have worked have

introduced activities that compete with the drugs like providing role models, promoting

fellowship, and giving opportunities to serve others. The worst bit is that research proves addicts

as people who can take control of their lives. But what is actually needed is the reformulation of

the drug addiction policies and addiction interventions based on credible research.

Works Cited
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Heyman, Gene. "Drug Addiction Is A Matter Of Difficult Choices -

Nytimes.Com". Nytimes.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.

Sack, David. "Addiction Is A Disease And Needs To Be Treated As Such -

Nytimes.Com". Nytimes.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.

Siegel, Zachary. "Is Addiction A Habit Or A Disease?". The Daily Beast. N.p., 2017. Web. 25

Mar. 2017.

Wise, Roy A. "Addiction becomes a brain disease." Neuron 26.1 (2000): 27-33.