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Addiction and Willpower – Are They Related?

Although some people view addiction as a choice, it is far from a matter of pure willpower. Addicts may choose to begin using drugs for a variety of reasons, but addictive behaviors are caused by uncontrollable impulses. Once a person becomes hooked on alcohol, opiates, amphetamines, or other substances, their lives become consumed by their constant compulsions to get drunk or high. Understanding that willpower and addiction are two separate issues is critical if you or someone you love has a substance abuse problem and needs help.

There are several choices addicts can make in order to improve their lives and ensure lasting sobriety. The first and most important decision is to attend a drug rehab program, but clean living also requires many longer-term choices. Society needs to gain a better understanding of the nature and difficulties of addiction – as well as the treatments available – in order to better help addicted people make the most promising lifestyle decisions possible. The following are some of the most important ways in which addiction and willpower are associated – often incorrectly.

Social Misconceptions and Taboos

Despite advancements in addiction research, negative stereotypes of drug users pervade. One of the most common of these stereotypes is that addicts are lazy, poor, and uneducated people who lack the willpower necessary to avoid substance abuse. This could not be further from the truth.

Drug addiction can affect almost anyone at any time. People from all walks of life become addicted to both illegal and prescription drugs, and even the most intelligent and successful members of society can fall victim to this disease. It is nonsensical to believe that people whose lives are going well would simply “choose” to ruin their careers or families through constant drug use. Likewise, it makes no sense to vilify poor and homeless addicts whose drug habits keep them from bettering their lives.

The Neurological Basis of Addiction

Over the last several decades, medical professionals have come to realize that addictions of all types are neurological diseases. When people use drugs for the first time, their brains respond with large secretions of dopamine – the feel-good neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of euphoria, sociability, and relieved anxiety. Just as the human brain compels people to seek the pleasures of food, sex, and sleep, it compels drug users to continue these euphoric feelings by getting high.

However, continued drug use causes people to develop tolerances. They require ever-larger amounts of the same substances to get high, and the fall into cycles of frequent and heavy use. Eventually, their brains incorporate these drugs into their normal chemical functions. Whereas their bodies once saw drugs as foreign substances, they now require them for daily activities. This is the true reason why addicts constantly seek drugs or alcohol.

Rehab and Recovery

The only way for addicted people to overcome their drug dependencies and take back control of their lives is through clinical drug rehab. They may not be able to “choose” to avoid drugs, but they can certainly make the decision to attend a treatment program. This can be a daunting and scary choice, but it is the most rewarding one an addict can make.

Drug rehab facilities offer a variety of treatment plans, but addicts with severe dependencies almost always require inpatient programs. They live at their clinics for thirty to ninety days, and they receive fifty or more hours of intensive therapies per week. These therapies include individual counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and a variety of treatments designed to help patients apply their lifestyle changes to the outside world.

Once addicts complete clinical treatment, they must continue to make positive choices to cope with the drug cravings they will inevitably face. Some of these choices are as simple as changing their daily routines or commutes. Other choices are more difficult and may involve losing friends, changing careers, and even moving. However, all of these sacrifices are worth the reward of long-term sobriety.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a drug addiction, call us right now. Regardless of where you live or what time it is, we can help. We can develop a customized treatment program that will have you back on your feet and enjoying the life you deserve, and we can consult with on this now confidentially and free of charge. To find out how successful our drug addiction treatment strategies are, simply pick up the phone and give us a call – it’s that easy.

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More