Addiction. Can we actually make choices?

The genesis of a debate was emerging in the Unreliable Transfer Rumours thread.
The comments were related to a Paddy Power ad, and a few comments ensued.

@Nobluff @Klopptimist and one or two others were commenting but I think we were all keen to steer clear of going so far off topic.

The thrust of the debate was on gambling and then moved on to other forms of addiction.

Its a broad debate.
Free will?
Mental Health?

Do we have such agency over pur own choices that addiction is an easy word for poor choices?
Or, are we incapable of making better choices in certain circumstances and conditions.

Do we let habit direct our lives.
Do we have capacity to stop?

I think there is a need to be sensitive on this as some posters will have personal experience of addiction, in themselves or family/friends.

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I’'m taking some treatment for alcohol addiction for about 2-3 months. So it’s probably a bit too early for me to say whether i’m out of the addiction phase. But as of now, I don’t seem to have any cravings for alcohol etc.

But on this

Do we let habit direct our lives.
Do we have capacity to stop?



They say drinking to excess normally skips a generation… well that is what was impressed on me at a youngish age
Old wives tale maybe, maybe not… or simply seeing for oneself at close quarters the harmful impacts it produces.
My father was a heavy drinker… my paternal grandfather was tea-total… his father was a heavy drinker… his father was tea total…
I am tea-total… and fingers crossed to date, my 3 sons whom by sequence should be heavy drinkers - are not too fussed and can take it or leave it…
However, the advertising element from every angle was never as extreme as it is today… there are so many many people, certainly those with and without prospects or hope of achievement, become very susceptible to the toxic elements that can and do ruin so many lives, both young and old…!

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Apologies to @RedOverTheWater and @Red_Submarine who also added to earlier debate, and anyone else I missed.


Best of luck with your treatment, fair dues.

I get the Yes answer but my other question thats leads on from that is about how we get to the “addicted” phase in the first instance?
At that point do we actually have choice whilst things spiral out of our control?

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Lot of reasons to get addicted imo. It can start with something like a stress buster , for me , being in Sales and having to listen to the shit that you get from Bosses etc made drinking a way to unwind , That slowly went to dependency.

I guess the choice is always there , People accepting that they have a dependency problem is probably the first choice that can be made


Such a tough topic as it touches on so many aspects of us as people and our extremely varied lives. There are some common threads though, such as stress. I certainly know that has screwed me up mentally and physically to various degrees. I have a weird relationship with food for example that I’m really struggling to get a grip of.

One further thing I would add is that while the choice always exists, the issue with addiction is the fact that choice may not be an easy one or even that obvious to the person involved.

@Sithbare best of luck to you on your journey.


It’s strange that this subject has come up for me! I’ve been a big drinker since I was a kid, so around 35 years. I also had a very unhappy childhood, as did my little brother, and the reasons for that have continued throughout my life (my brother took his own life when he was 23). I’ve had lots of therapy along the way, but six years ago I finally discovered and understood what had been happening, and why. It was a genuine epiphany and I went back to therapy with a new focus. I’ve been able to drag my nephew out of a similar situation as a result and help him get his life on course, which I’m obviously delighted about. I still continued to use alcohol to help me though and have known for a long time that my drinking is a problem. Anyway, I fell down the stairs drunk on the 21st December and properly fucked my back up, (it’s still fucked). It scared the life out of me because it could have been much worse. I was lucky in a way. Haven’t had a drink since. Doesn’t sound a long time, but it’s the longest I’ve been sober in 35 years. No cravings, no desire to go to the offy. I’ve managed to link alcohol with potential disaster in my head and I’m all good. I need to work on the underlying issues more and that’s the difference for me. Exterminating the roots is the way forward. I still smoke a bit of weed every day (I buy the weakest stuff imaginable) and that largely helps, especially with pain relief at the moment. Overdoing it makes me introspective so I don’t do that.
So that’s where I’m at! Will I ever drink again? Almost certainly, but it will be in an appropriate setting, with friends, and I won’t be ‘doing stairs’ when I do :slight_smile: xx


I believe some people are more prone to addiction than others, whether due to something in their genetics or because of their living circumstances. Hardship definitely allows addiction to thrive.

I wish general attitudes towards addicts were more sympathetic and solutions to help them were more politically viable. Even if for the benefit of oneself rather than the addict, it doesn’t really matter.


I’m very aware that I have an addictive personality by which I mean I easily get addicted to things.

The question can we actually make choices is a very simple one to answer. The answer is yes. If we weren’t then everyone of us that has ever been addicted to anything would still be addicted to that thing and never be able to stop.

However, having seen where the question arose from, I understand it is not as simple as that, and the question is more nuanced.

Addiction by it’s very nature is not usually something which just stops. For someone like me, the trick is to avoid things which are addicitve in the first place, or if it’s too late for that, to replace ‘bad’ addictions with ‘good’ ones. For me they are choices, but equally for most things that I can find addicitve it’s much easier to avoid them these days. I used to smoke, but with the increased regulations around smoking in media, advertisements, smoking bans, health warnings, price hikes etc. I’ve gone from being able to smoke a cig in Woolworths to not even knowing how much a pack would cost anymore.

With gambling, it’s just something I avoid in the first place. I once blew £10 in an hour in a penny arcade and that was my warning, so I just never took it on. But for those that are addictes and want to stop, it’s probably not so easy with companies spamming social media so much. Almost every unskippable ad I get on youtube is a gambling company telling how fun and friendly tombola is or how much more exciting the football would be if I lost some money while watching it. Yes, it’s all still a choice, but choices are harder if access is easier and the adverts are everywhere.

I once watched a documentary about Heroin addiction called Heroin: Cape Cod. It’s worth a watch. But anyway, one thing that struck me in it, was when these young people did stop taking the heroin. When they were clean. They explained that, the addiction was still there. It was constant. Though they had made the choice, knowing that that high was available at almost any moment meant that it never really went away. They couldn’t choose to not be addicted. Now as an ex-smoker I can relate, even though my choice of drug and it’s effect was not comparable to that of heroin, I know if they invented a cheap, non-dangerous cigarette that didn’t smell bad, but was otherwise exactly the same as a cigarette, then I would probably start smoking again, because, I do still miss that feeling of lighting up after a long day at work, or having one with a few beers, or in an afternoon on a cold day with a cup of coffee.

My point being, that the choices aren’t always easy, and they certainly aren’t made easier by people who stand to profit from people’s addictions. These companies knowingly use techniques to manipulate and encourage people to throw their money away. If it was all as simple as just making a choice, then nobody who couldn’t afford to would give these leeches a penny.


Thats the crux of it, if it was as simple as “giving up” then addiction wouldn’t exist.

Was considering this thread myself, thanks for starting. I have tremendous sympathy for anybody who’s addicted to anything, can be a life destroying nightmare.

As a person who’s blown 2 weeks overtime in an hour in Vegas can attest, the thrill is insane at times. But, and it’s a bloody big but in my opinion, the casino wasn’t to blame for me being a fucking pissed idiot.

Ultimately it’s personal responsibility. YOU are responsible for what you do, nobody else is. A car dealer isn’t responsible for you speeding, a gun shop isn’t responsible for you murdering somebody. A supermarket isn’t responsible for you drinking bleach and a gambling company is not responsible for your bankruptcy. Your choice, your actions, your ultimate situation.

Smoking was massively glamorised years ago, what ever anybody says, smoking is cool. I quit when I got married, was easy. 40 a day at times. Was that down to advertising or my own stupidity? Hello, I was stupid.

I drink too much because I enjoy it. Is that Carling’s fault? No, I’m just a guy who likes a pint or 12.

I’m a great believer in personal responsibility and the government staying out of my choices. Let me choose what to do and if it fucks me up, my call.

Or we can wrap everybody in cotton wool and ban everything. What a lovely life that would be….

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I guess it’s the same with me. With a certain circle of friends in an appropriate settings… Maybe a beer or so…

Given time ofcourse.

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Yes, but … I don’t think that the companies that benefit from the poor choices that people make should find it so easy to promote and advertise their products.

It’s all very well having freedom of choice but that does not mean that companies whose products can potentially ruin, or even terminate, people’s lives should be able to advertise freely? If tobacco and alcohol advertising is banned in sport, then why not gambling too? The fact that there isn’t an immediate medical consequence to gambling shouldn’t stop it from being seen in the same light as tobacco and alcohol. All too often it can result in financial ruin and that of course can have life threatening consequences.

My own addiction was cigarettes. I smoked at least 40 a day for thirty years. Tried to stop several times before I finally managed it 15 years ago. Even so I still fantasize about having a fag. Yes, it looks cool but smokers certainly don’t smell cool.


Should fast food advertising be banned? No question that a diet of shite makes you fat. But should I have to pay extra for my occasional Big Mac? That’s what taxing does. Why should I pay more because others can’t control themselves?

Took me 10 years to stop craving. Even now 23 years on I consider myself to be a smoker who doesn’t smoke.

theres an arguement that it should be cheaper and easier to eat healthy food, and more expensive to eat shite food, smoke and drink.

from an enviromental aspect it makes sense as well.

id love to see a study which took in all aspects (health, employment, government income, enviroment and prohabition) calculating the cost benefit long term to subsidising fresh food and consumables and tripling the tax on fast food, smokes and the piss.

i know it sounds far fetched, but if you dial it all the way back to zero, is it really that ridiculous a proposal? given alot of these issues (or at least the volume of them) are a pretty modern phenom. say for interest queen vicky decided running a coffee shop incurred a 100% tax and any boiled sweet that was packaged the same, would we even blink nowadays.

as for addiction, the above scenario wont solve alot short term, might assist generationally though.

i suppose i have a lot of sympathy for addicts, i dont think i can honestly have a black and white opinion though, i look at every case differently.

i feel sorry for the guy thats struggling with alcohol becuase he is surrounded by it in his upbringing, is aware of it, but struggles to say no, im less sympathetic to the alcoholic abuser who wears it like a badge and just encourages people down the same path


Such taxes just punish the addicted, and the money rarely gets used to help them. Terribly regressive.

It is, go to the supermarket and buy some fruit and veg and cook it yourself. I’ve spent the last hour doing the mise en place for tomorrow’s tea. Meat now marinading, veg prepped. Will cook it all in the morning then slow cooker all day. Easy 4 meals for the 3 of us, cheaper than fast food.

I’d really be tempted to go with that. Shite food doesn’t necessarily make you put weight on but the potential health impacts from it are pretty well known - diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers and a host of autoimmune problems. There was an article in the Independent about it recently. It’s also addictive. Sugar is a pig to come off and even harder to avoid. It’s not a case of just stopping putting a sugar in your coffee.

Governments gave the smoking industry a hard time, and basically killed it off in many areas. Yet the food industry, even more harmful IMO, carries on untouched.

My excuse is time, which is a shockingly poor one to be honest. I dont have time or I dont know what to do etc. My diet is better than most but in the evening it’s all to easy to stick a frozen something or other in the oven with a salad. I need to get cooking properly again.

Step 1 tomorrow. Menu plan. Anyone tried those Hello Fresh type things? Something that takes the thinking out of it might be useful.

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