In recent years, experts have named addiction a disease, and for good reason. Instead of seeing addiction as a personal flaw or as maladaptive behavior that simply needs fixing, professionals in the drug and alcohol treatment field, see addiction as an illness of the brain.

However, the problem with this is that there might be a tendency for those in recovery to not take responsibility for their role in the development of addiction. Certainly, those who have become addicted to drugs or alcohol are not victims of their genetics or brain chemistry. Instead, there are actually a variety of factors that go into how an addiction develops. In fact, addiction may develop because of the following factors, each playing a role in their own way:

–genetic disposition
–family upbringing and conditioning
–cultural norms – whether it’s socially sanctioned to drink at social gatherings
–coping mechanisms – when these are poor, people might turn to drinking or drug use as a means for coping with life
–level of stress
–level of resiliency
–personal choice to use drugs or alcohol

As you can see there are many factors that go into the development of an addiction. This last point addresses the fact that addiction begins with the choice to use drugs or alcohol.  Of course, there might be a genetic predisposition to developing an addiction, and there might be other factors at play, but ultimately it’s personal choice that plays a role in whether addiction develops in one’s life. Even if someone where genetically prone to becoming an addict, if he or she never chooses to drink or use drugs, then addiction will never develop – at least not to drugs or alcohol. (There are other forms of addiction. Behavioral addictions include behaviors that lead to compulsory behavior, such as gambling, sexual activity, and watching pornography.)

Because of the significant level of personal responsibility when it comes to addiction, there is a high emphasis on preventing drug use in the first place. This is especially true for teens, who are a vulnerable population. But anyone who experiences a mental illness might turn to drugs, anyone who has recently experienced a trauma or a loss in their life might turn to drugs. And anyone who has consistently had poor coping mechanisms might also turn to drinking or drug use. Efforts to help prevent drug use in the first place are aimed at also preventing addiction. Initial drug use is a voluntary, and therefore preventable, behavior.

Even if someone were to use drugs or drink and he or she were to develop an addiction, behavior continues to be a significant factor in drug and alcohol treatment as well. In other words, personal responsibility for one’s addiction exists before, during, and after the development of an addiction. For instance, someone is responsible for engaging in drug use in the first place. And, during addiction treatment, personal responsibility is necessary for transformation.

For instance, recovery from addiction requires significant changes in one’s life – including change of friends, lifestyle, coping mechanisms, behavior, choices, and thoughts. To make these changes, a sense of personal commitment to change must be present. At a minimum, a recovering addict must comply with the treatment regimen. And in many cases, even this is not adhered to. Not complying with treatment is one of the biggest cause of relapses for all chronic illnesses, including asthma, diabetes, hypertension, and addiction.

For all these reasons, and more, there must be a high level of personal responsibility in recovery, not only to follow the addiction treatment program, but to also recognize that addiction began because of a personal choice to use. For this reason, commitment to change is an important part of success in treatment and recovery.

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