Addiction: Disease or Decision?

It’s an eternal question in mental health treatment.

Do you believe that addiction is a disease or a decision?

We could talk about brain scans and heredity. We could talk about childhood influences and coping skills. Personally, I haven’t seen enough scientifically to support either side.

And yet, I have to believe it’s a disease.

Because the alternative to believing it’s a disease is to believe it’s a decision, and this has too many ramifications for me to wrap my head around.

I do know this much about myself: Being a human, I’m not above the feeling of jaded weariness I might feel when treating substance users. Such feelings would only skyrocket if it was somehow proven that my patients bring this upon themselves.

So, I choose to believe that substance abuse is a disease, not a decision.

Whatever my personal feelings are. However I might feel when they walk into my office. Whatever they might look like on the outside. However they may behave or deceive.

The bottom line is, it’s not my assignment to determine who is deserving of compassion and care.

I am simply called to care.