Why Breaking Addiction Takes More than Willpower

Why Breaking Addiction Takes More than Willpower

Professional treatment and specialized counseling is essential for an addict to break addiction

Drug addiction is a medically recognized brain disease that people cannot simply overcome through willpower. Several stigmas of addiction are false, like the one that says addicts can simply stop using if they choose to. When addiction forms, it hijacks the brain by creating new signals that encourage drug abuse. A brain hijacked by a chemical substance makes users believe that the drug is necessary to function. Once drug tolerance and dependence form, then users need the drug to function normally. Breaking an addiction takes more than willpower for the following reasons.

  • The brain’s reward center is flooded – Every pleasurable activity (from eating food to taking drugs) releases dopamine into the brain. When dopamine is released, it tells the brain that the causal activity was pleasurable and should be repeated. The problem is that drugs flood the reward center with up to 10 times more than the average amount of dopamine. Drugs also send dopamine faster and more reliably than other activity, including sex. This flood of dopamine causes the brain to want drugs more than it wants other healthy activities.
  • The brain sends signals to motivate drug use – Repeated drug use stimulates nerves associated with planning and completing tasks, which means that addicts’ brains are wired to want and seek drugs. In other words, the brain tells addicts to go after drugs.
  • The brain becomes tolerant – With time, the brain becomes tolerant to the effects of drugs, so it requires higher doses to achieve former levels of pleasure. Unfortunately, when the brain becomes tolerant to a drug, it still remembers the former pleasure associated with consuming it. This memory sends addicts to seek pleasure by taking more drugs at higher levels.
  • The brain sends out reminders – The brain stores information about previous people and locations associated with drug use, and it sends social and environmental cues about where to find and consume the substance. The brain essentially reminds the addict that a certain person or place may have drugs.
  • The brain craves the substance – Along with the social and environmental reminders, the brain also makes the addict crave the substance for how it makes her feel. This craving endures even when the addict is in recovery, which is why addicts often relapse.

Professional treatment and specialized counseling is essential for an addict to break addiction. With help, users can learn to ignore or cope with the messages that the brain continues to send.

Find Treatment for Addiction

If you or someone you know struggles with addiction and needs help, then please call our toll-free helpline now. Our admissions coordinators are standing by 24 hours a day to help you find a treatment program that works for you. Break the cycle of addiction and experience a healthier life in recovery by calling us today.