Everyone has free will when it comes to making certain choices in life, but what about when it comes to using drugs and becoming an addict?
People who have never been addicted to narcotics and have never felt the wrath and bondage of addiction tend to have a common belief that addicts who choose to continue to use drugs are doing so out of free will. But is this really true? Are addicts just fanning their own fire? Are they deserving of sympathy? Or do they really have the capacity to exercise free will to stop using?
While that first hit may have been a choice made out of free will, addiction takes things to a completely different level. In short, addiction significantly hinders addicts’ ability to behave and think rationally the way non-addicts do. In fact, long-term use of drugs can actually cause fundamental changes in the brain, which impact the choices addicts make, including the choice to take drugs.
What Happens to the Brain After Prolonged Drug Use?
Long-term drug use has been associated with the hyper-stimulation of the reward system in the brain, which eventually results in neural damage. The brain’s reward system is made up of neurons that release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that acts as a messenger to carry signals between brain cells. Anything that is considered pleasurable, including the effects of taking drugs, stimulates these circuits.
This reward allows you to remember the source of such pleasure so you can seek out that source in order to continue experiencing the pleasure that it brings. These behaviors are repeated in an effort to constantly feel that pleasure, which explains why those with substance use disorders find it extremely difficult to stop using their drug of choice.
Addiction overpowers and takes over this reward system which can actually weaken an addict’s free will. Addiction goes well beyond choosing to seek pleasure. Instead, addiction ends up controlling an addict’s behavior to the point that all actions taken are focused on getting and using drugs. As the drug abuse continues, the brain’s reward system eventually becomes submissive to the drug to some degree. Drugs change the brain’s reward system and even intensify and extend the pleasure experienced.
What Role Does Free Will Play in Overcoming Addiction?
Having said all that, there are scholars and studies that suggest that, although brain function is certainly altered as a result of long-term drug use and addiction, addicts are still able to make their own choices and exercise free will. This would explain why many addicts are actually able to overcome their addictions and enter Colorado drug rehab. Obviously, they are making the choice to quit and stay sober, despite many other addicts refusing to get treatment or relapsing.
Many would argue that addicts have free will because many have already shown and will continue to show the ability to voluntary quit using drugs and enter a treatment program. Short of being coerced into a Colorado drug rehab facility, addicts certainly do have some capacity to make the choice to enter rehab, despite the real possibility of having long-term and even permanent brain damage as a result of years of substance abuse.
Free will does play a key role in overcoming addiction, as does self-awareness. Without being aware of your actions, it can be extremely difficult to realize that the behaviors you execute directly influence your desire to continue using drugs. Self-awareness allows you to be fully aware of your toxic behaviors and actions that are keeping you stuck in your addiction.
By identifying such behaviors, you can make the conscious decision to change such behaviors and finally overcome your addiction with the help of a reputable Colorado drug rehab. Contact us at The Recovery Village to get the help you need to overcome your addiction and take back your life.