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Alcoholism: Disease or Choice?

Since alcohol was first introduced to American culture, people have struggled with alcohol misuse and dependence. People have also grappled with the “great debate” for years and years  – is alcoholism a disease or a choice? For many decades, alcoholism was believed to be a choice. Those who struggled with alcohol misuse and dependence were considered weak moral character, lacking willpower, or even psychologically unhinged. In fact, people who struggled with alcoholism used to be locked away in psychiatric hospitals, and many were written off as incurably insane. It wasn’t until recently that medical professionals, scientists, and addiction specialists began to understand addiction as a disease — a chronic condition of the mind that could be effectively treated, but never entirely cured. Despite widespread recognition of the Disease Model of Addiction, many people still believe that alcoholism is a choice.

Brain Chemistry Changes After Alcohol Use

They believe that if a person really had the deep-seated desire to stop drinking, they would simply walk away from the wine, beer, or liquor. If you have personally struggled with alcoholism or know someone who has, you likely understand the lack of choice involved in the matter. Picking up a drink for the very first time is a choice; no confusion there. However, suppose a person has been abusing alcohol for a prolonged time and has certain pre-existing risk factors. In that case, there is a very good chance they will eventually lose all choices. This is because, over time, alcohol use becomes compulsive, and the brain’s chemistry changes. Alcoholism: Disease or Choice?

How is Alcoholism Considered a Brain Disease?

Regardless of your personal beliefs pertaining to alcohol use and alcohol dependence, there is ample evidence supporting the fact that alcoholism is a chronic and relapsing disease of the brain. As the disease of alcoholism develops, the chemistry of the brain begins to change. The brain becomes accustomed to the presence of alcohol, and a physical tolerance is developed over time. This simply means that a person must drink more in order to feel the desired effects (which, in the case of the alcoholic, are typically drunkenness). When tolerance develops a person starts to experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal when they attempt to quit on their own. At first, these symptoms might mimic the symptoms of a bad hangover. They might feel tired, sluggish, and sick to their stomach. They might have a pounding headache because of dehydration, and experience changes to mood and behavior as a direct result. Over time, however, the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal will grow more severe. Finally, both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms will become all but unbearable — in some cases, even life-threatening. This is around the time when all choicer is lost, and alcohol consumption becomes an uncontrollable compulsion.

Do You Need Alcohol Dependence Recovery?

At Evoke Wellness we stand by the medically accepted disease model of alcoholism. Therefore, when we treat alcohol dependence, we treat it as we would treat any other chronic health condition — with medication-assisted treatment options (whenever necessary) and additional medical and therapeutic interventions. What separates alcoholism from other chronic conditions is that alcoholism always requires a multi-pronged approach to care. Whereas some diseases simply require medication or an invasive surgical procedure, alcoholism does not involve a damaged vital organ or a tumor that needs to be surgically removed. Alcoholism is a disease of the body, mind, and spirit. Many people who struggle with alcohol abuse and dependence struggle with a range of serious personal consequences that developed during their active addiction.

Overcome Alcohol Abuse and Start Lasting Sobriety at Evoke Wellness

At Evoke Wellness, we do much more than treating alcoholism and addiction comprehensively; we also help our clients effectively work through their consequences and regain a sense of control over their own lives. We understand how difficult it can be to deal with an alcohol use disorder, partially because alcohol consumption is such a major part of American culture. If you are still on the fence as to whether or not professional treatment has become necessary, contact us today, and we will conduct a pre-assessment to help you determine which level of care (if any) is right for you.