It's so easy to look at someone suffering from an addiction and think, "Why doesn't he just stop?" After all, it's not hard for the rest of us to stop doing things that aren't good for us. Sure, it might be a pain to always remember to buckle up in the car, or to hold your mouth shut to stop yourself from swearing in front of the kids, but if you really try hard, you can do it. All you need is to summon a little willpower. So why can't an addict just stop drinking or shooting up? Especially when the consequences of using or drinking can be so dire, like losing your job, home and family?
The answer is simple: Addiction isn't an issue of character. It's a disease. More ominously, a brain disease. Drugs cause a huge upsurge in dopamine, a neurochemical that stimulates feelings of pleasure. So the user feels really good and for a long time initially. The problem is that repeated drug use lowers the response of the dopamine system to everyday stimuli – to the point where the brain doesn't just want drugs or booze, it needs those substances [source: National Institute on Drug Abuse]. Addicts can't will away their desires or actions. They need treatment or they'll never recover.