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Is Opioid Addiction a Choice?

The opioid addiction crisis that continues to plague America is frightening, particularly for someone who may struggle with addiction. However, the stigma surrounding opioid use and associated problems often prevent people from getting the help they need. Instead, millions of people struggle in silence while the epidemic gets worse. Those people may struggle with shame, guilt, or even the misinformed perception that a person can quit misusing opioids any time they like. In order to address the crisis, we must ask ourselves the following question: Is opiate addiction really a choice?

What Are Opioids and Why Are They Abused?

Opioids are powerful painkillers that include illegal drugs like heroin, as well as legal medications like oxycodone or morphine. They work by binding to receptors in the brain’s pain pathways to reduce the sensation of pain. In a healthy person, this process can make someone feel calm and relaxed, which is why opioids are also prescribed for anxiety or sleep disorders. But for someone already susceptible to addictions, abusing opioids can quickly become a serious problem.

Why Is America Struggling With Opioid Addiction?

While opioid abuse and addiction are global problems, most of the opioid epidemic in America can be traced back to three factors. First, a significant percentage of the country’s population struggles with chronic pain and requires painkillers to manage their conditions. Unfortunately, many doctors overprescribe opioids as a treatment, with some prescribing these medications without assessing their patients’ risk factors. Secondly, opioids are often easy to acquire. These drugs are available both on the black market and with a prescription from a doctor. Thirdly, the opioid epidemic is further complicated by a lack of understanding about addiction and how it works.

Is Opiate Addiction Real?

Many people believe addiction is a character flaw, not a medical condition. However, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is definitely not a choice. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “80 % of people who needed treatment at a specialty facility for illicit drug use didn’t receive treatment.” Partially to blame for this lack of attendance of substance abusers in treatment facilities is the misguided notion that they weren’t addicted in the first place; that they could “choose” to give up their drug of choice. As a result, many people die every day from addiction.

What Can We Do?

These deaths are preventable. Opioid addiction is treatable, and many addicts want help, but they’re often too afraid or stubborn to seek it. They don’t want to be judged, have their privacy violated, or have their families stigmatized. This stigma is rooted in misconceptions about opioid addiction and opioid users. There is a dangerous narrative surrounding opioid addiction that falsely paints all opioid users as criminals or morally bankrupt individuals. Only by acknowledging addiction as what it is, a disease to be treated, can we begin to fight for the lives of our fellow human beings.

If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid addiction, help is available. You can find numerous treatment options at The Guest House. People often tell themselves they don’t need help or can quit any time on their own. The reality is that no one should face substance abuse alone. Remember that there’s no shame in asking for help. If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid addiction and needs help, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask. Please call (855) 483-7800 for more information.