For decades, scientists and doctors have struggled to explain the root cause of addiction and develop an effective treatment method. Lately, a popular theory has gained ground: that addiction is a habit that can be learned and unlearned. This “neuroplasticity” allow us to learn and forget patterns and behaviors, and also to naturally recover from diseases, brain injuries, and strokes.

We’ve asked a select group of drug and alcohol addiction experts to sound off on this issue, and here’s what they have to say.


Jim LaPierre LCSW, CCS | Addiction Counselor

“Drug addiction is a series of learned behaviors, all of which are unhealthy attempts to fill emptiness and/or take away pain. Through the process of recovery, we learn to live life on life's terms. We accept that being free of addiction requires moving our focus away from whatever we may or may not want and focusing on what it is that we need.

“We unlearn associations, habits, and mindsets. We come to unlearn the lessons from our families of origins and the false beliefs that were impressed upon us. We discover the truth about our worth and about what's possible when we move from active addiction to sobriety.”

Jim LaPierre is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services. He specializes in assisting people in recovery (whether from drugs, alcohol, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) to overcome obstacles and improve their quality of life.


Ricky Simmons | Drug and Alcohol Counselor

“I believe drug addiction is bad behavior being constantly repeated; however, it's up to the individual to make a daily choice not to engage in that bad behavior.”

Ricky Simmons is a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor and a motivational speaker. Once a professional football player and full-time drug addict, Ricky has recovered and is now reaching out different agencies to share his story in hope of helping others.


Carrie Langenbach LMFT, CSAC| Addiction Counselor

“I believe that addiction can be a "bad" learned behavior. I also believe that people can be genetically predisposed to addiction, which can complicate recovery efforts. However, I absolutely believe behavior can be altered.

"I think it takes the right combination of readiness to change, access to treatment and positive social support to provide those struggling with addiction the best chance at long-term recovery."

Carrie Langenbach is a licensed marriage and family therapist and certified substance abuse counselor. Her area of focus includes chronic mental illness, trauma, childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault, substance abuse and addiction, and co-occurring disorders.