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Do People Fall Into Addiction Because They Are Weak-Willed or Immoral?


Up until the end of the nineteenth century it was commonly believed that people fell into addiction because there were immoral or weak-willed. Throughout the twentieth century there were impressive increases in our understanding of addiction. Improvements in medical technology allowed us to see that these individuals had a disease of the brain.  The progress of addiction causes obviously changes to brain structure, and these can be seen using tools such as the MRI scan. There are still some people who view those who fall into addiction as evil or weak-willed, but such a view is far from the mainstream.

Are Substance Abusers Weak Willed?

It may appear on the surface that substance abusers are weak willed. After all, they are engaged in an activity that is harmful, yet they seem unable to stop. The reality is that a weak willed person would not be able to survive in the world of addiction. These are people who are very determined and tenacious. If somebody is addicted to alcohol or drugs they would likely be willing to crawl naked over broken glass to get to these substances if this was the only way to get to them. The fact that substance abusers are not weak willed often becomes more obvious when the person becomes sober, and they are able to put their determination to more productive uses. So, it would be wrong to say that substance abusers are weak willed, but there could be a case made that their determination is wrongly placed.

Are Substance Abusers Immoral?

It was once widely accepted that those who fell into addiction were just sinners or bad people. This made it easier for outsiders to ignore the suffering of the addicted person, as they were just getting their just desserts. The reality is that nobody ever chooses to become addicted to these substances. To blame the individual for becoming addicted is the same as blaming them for having diabetes or heart problems. The individual has not become addicted because they are a bad person. When this person first began using alcohol or drugs it is unlikely that they ever imagined it would lead them to addiction.

Are Substance Abusers Responsible For Their Actions?

While it would be wrong to say that substance abusers are wrong for becoming addicted, it would be fair to say that they are responsible for ending their addiction. It is similar to a situation where a diabetic refuses to take the available medication that would help them deal with their symptoms. There is even more of an obligation for the substance abusers to end this abuse because it causes so much suffering for other people.

The Causes of Addiction

There is no simple reason for why some people fall into addiction problems while most people do not. It is a very complex phenomenon, and there are many paths that lead to this type of maladaptive behaviour. Here are just some of the most likely causes for why the person might end up dealing with this situation:

  • Some people fall into addiction because they are struggling to cope with life. This may be because they grew up in an environment where they did not get the opportunity to develop appropriate coping skills. This means that they feel that their life is difficult to deal with, and they will be tempted to turn to things that seem to make them feel better. Alcohol or drugs can give the individual a false impression that they are better able to cope with life.
  • There are many individuals who feel into addiction because they have an undiagnosed mental health condition. This could be something like depression or anxiety disorder. If the symptoms are mild the individual may not even be aware that they have the problem. If this person tries alcohol or drugs they may find that these substances initially make them feel a bit better. They will therefore continue to use these substances as a form of self medication. What this person is actually doing is exacerbating their problems – alcohol is a depressant. This attempt to self medicate will mean that the individual ends up having to deal with a dual diagnosis – they have an addiction as well as a mental health problem.
  • There will be some people who fall into addiction because they are suffering from some type of trauma. This is something that usually happened to them in childhood and it could include; sexual, emotional, or physical abuse. The individual feels overwhelmed by these experiences, and they use alcohol or drugs as a means to hide from them.
  • A common reason for why people fall into addiction is simply true peer pressure. It can be particularly difficult for young people to refuse to experiment with alcohol or drugs if their friends are engaged in this activity. Some of these substances are highly addictive, and it will not take long before the person is hooked.
  • Some people will have stressful jobs and stressful lives, and they may turn to these substances as a means to relax. It is all too easy to cross the line into addiction once the individual begins using these substances regularly.

An increasingly common way that people are falling into addiction is the misuse of prescription drugs. What happens is that the person begins by having a legitimate reason for using these substances. The doctor prescribes these drugs to treat a particular symptom, and it is perfectly reasonable that the person uses these substances. So long as this person continues to use them as prescribed by their physician there will be no real problem. What can happen though, particularly with addictive drugs such as opiates, is that the person begins to enjoy the side effects of this medication. They move from using the drug to treat their symptoms to using it to enjoy the feeling of being high – they have then crossed the line into recreational drug use, and they are at high risk of addiction.

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