Many individuals assume all aspects of addiction are voluntary. However, while part of addiction involves choice, substance use disorder (SUD) is a disease that chemically alters the brain’s ability to properly function.

Once addiction sets in, the disorder is no longer a simple decision to continue using a substance. Substance use becomes an involuntary necessity that is extremely difficult to overcome. A majority of SUD is involuntary after the addiction sets in and needs to be addressed for the person to be able to recover.

Voluntary Aspects

The main aspect of addiction that is voluntary is the choice to partake in substance use in the first place. This initial decision may be based on peer pressure or other factors that encourage an individual to use a substance; however, the choice to engage in this use is often a voluntary choice.

Some individuals find themselves at the point of addiction after one use. Others may need to use the substance multiple times to reach a state of addiction. If this is the case, the first few initial acts of using a substance are considered to be voluntary decisions.

It is important to understand that most aspects of addiction are not voluntary. This can help you understand either the hardships of addiction for someone else or the obstacles in recovery for you to overcome. Working against involuntary aspects can be extremely frustrating because many of the side effects are out of your control. Addiction is challenging to overcome, but having a recovery team can give you the tools you need to get through it.

Involuntary Aspects

After addiction begins, people experience many involuntary side effects and behaviors. At this point, individuals often realize that they are beginning to struggle with substance abuse, but it may be too late to refrain from using. The compulsion to continue using the substance is a result of the brain’s reward circuit reinforcing the behavior. Working against this reward circuit can be extremely difficult to do alone.

Continuing to use the substance slowly erodes your free will regarding the substance. This lack of free will deteriorates your ability to avoid future use. It is possible to be worried about the effects of your substance use and still feel that doing anything to resist it would be impossible. This is one of the biggest challenges in addiction recovery. Stepping over this hurdle and working against what your body desires can be extremely difficult.

Working to overcome addiction is usually uncomfortable. You are working against a brain disease that affects your body’s feelings of pleasure to rewire your ability to function without the substance. This process takes time. When you use or drink, your brain releases dopamine, giving a pleasurable sensation to the rest of your body. As your body becomes reliant on the substance, it loses its ability to produce the same level of dopamine without the presence of a substance

Fortunately, over time, your brain and body can rewire themselves. Working to improve other aspects of your life to increase your pleasurable feelings from other activities can give your system healthy amounts of dopamine and help you overcome this involuntary need. Over time, the involuntary need can diminish.

Involuntary Treatment

Many adolescents who are struggling with SUD are sent to treatment facilities involuntarily. Gaining the motivation to recover and managing your emotions after being forced into treatment is often very overwhelming. Understanding the reasons you are there and the potential benefits that can come from the recovery process can alleviate some of this stress. Your treatment team is here for you and wants to help you succeed in the recovery process. Take the initiative to learn as much as your can through the program and apply it to your home life. 

Adults who are in treatment involuntarily are often required to be there for legal reasons. If you are court-ordered to attend treatment and recover, it can be hard to care about your recovery. Think about the actions that have led you to this point and how you want your life to be different. Recovery can not only help with addiction, but it can also help you work toward the lifestyle you desire to have. Set goals for yourself and try to picture the benefits that a treatment program can bring to your lifestyle and future.

Involuntary treatment is usually not as effective as voluntary treatment. If you do not have a desire to be there and work through the process of recovery, you are more likely to hold onto old habits and stay in the same place. Regardless of what brought you to treatment, if you voluntarily choose to engage with it, you can develop the motivation necessary for success and take initiative to move forward. Even if you begin your treatment through involuntary means, deciding you want to recover and create a better future for yourself can make a drastic difference in your progress. 

It is common to believe that addiction is a voluntary action that impacts individuals who lack self-control. While the initial decision to use a substance is usually voluntary, the onset and progression of addiction are involuntary. If you are struggling with addiction, do not allow yourself to believe that it is because you have no self-control. Addiction chemically changes the way your brain processes information and can make it extremely difficult to stop yourself from using substances after the addiction sets in. Overcoming these biological responses can be extremely challenging; however, an experienced treatment team can help you through the process toward a substance-free life. Understanding the involuntary aspects of addiction can help you to further understand the disease you are dealing with and the ways you can overcome it. To learn more about the voluntary and involuntary aspects of addiction, reach out to Dream Recovery at (949) 732-1960.

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