Belief That Addiction Destroys Free Will Can Make Recovery Seem Impossible, Study Says

Belief That Addiction Destroys Free Will Can Make Recovery Seem Impossible, Study Says

A new study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors Reports has found that simply believing one’s free will has been compromised – whether it really is or not – can make addicts decide that it’s just too hopeless to even try to get clean.

“It is widely believed that addiction entails a loss of free will, even though this point is controversial among scholars,” the study says. “There is arguably a downside to this belief, in that addicts who believe they lack the free will to quit an addiction might therefore fail [to even try] to quit an addiction.”

Addiction vs free will

For decades, a considerable amount of conventional wisdom has suggested that addiction erases free will, that it’s an incurable brain disease and that there’s nothing you or anyone else can do about it. However, that raises a few questions:

  1. Is free will compromised when you become hooked on drugs or alcohol or anything else?
  2. Does addictive behavior continue simply because you believe that your free will has been compromised?
  3. Even more troublesome, is addiction itself an incurable disease that will never get better?

The Flip Side

There is no shortage of recovered alcoholics and drug addicts who claim they’re living proof that although they may have felt discouraged at times, they made it into recovery because they exercised their will power – their free will. While each of their situations were different, many of these people faced similar hurdles on their way towards sobriety:

  1. They suffered from serious addiction, sometimes for years.
  2. Somehow, they found the strength within themselves to break free, get into recovery, and eventually reclaim their lives.
  3. They don’t require life-long assistance to avoid relapse. In fact, they don’t feel at risk at all because many say they are cured of their addiction.

We must add that a very high percentage of these folks would never have achieved sobriety without help, usually a lot of it, and usually from highly skilled, experienced and compassionate experts like our team of detox advisors here at Novus Medical Detox Centers.

So What About Free Will?

The study’s authors said that the message that free will is compromised by addiction has been widely disseminated. However,

“among scholars this view is hardly uniformly accepted,” they wrote. “A large and growing literature supports an alternative view in which addiction is primarily a disorder of choice.”

The study showed that people selectively excuse problem behavior. According to the study’s authors, they were,

“more likely to deny free will when their actions involving drugs and alcohol caused problems. When similar behaviors turned out fine, they were happy to acknowledge they were free and in control.”

The study also points out that some addicts seeking recovery may avoid systems that require an admission that they’re powerless over their addiction.

The Essential Help Factor

It seems from all the available data that there’s a third point of view, after the “no free will” and the “full free will” proponents: People will respond to help, regardless of where it came from or what kind it was.

For them, free will wasn’t a big factor. What counted was the right help arriving at just the right time.

Countless people addicted to a substance, regardless of their free will or lack of it, need someone they can count on and can call, day or night, when they feel hopeless or in danger of relapse. Many people suffering from addiction depend on the strength they draw from support groups that “have their back”. As they move beyond individual sobriety, whether that means avoiding the next drink, hit, pill, etc., they progress towards repaired and recovered relationships and a healthy, meaningful life.

Regardless of free will or lack thereof, every person suffering from addiction needs Help with a capital “H” to get to where they want to go. Help is so essential that when recovered addicts talk about their journey back, it’s almost always the first thing they mention.

Here at Novus Medical Detox Centers, we see every day the vital role our caring, expert help plays in the recovery of each patient. And if they move on from detox at Novus to rehab and beyond, help will continue to be an essential factor in their recovery.

If you or someone you care for is having a problem with substance abuse, call us right away at (855) 464-8550. We are the addiction help specialists.

Related Posts:

Start Your New Path to Sobriety Today!

    • Please enter your name.
    • This isn't a valid phone number.
    • Please enter your email address.
      This isn't a valid email address.
    • Please make a selection.
    • Please enter a message.