Is Drug Addiction Really Just a Lack of Willpower?

Drug addiction is still one of the most misunderstood diseases of all time. Many people believe that compulsive drug use is a moral failing or weakness. If you are struggling to recover from drug addiction, you may think the issue is you lack willpower. Addiction is a disease of the brain’s reward and related circuitry. The brain’s reward circuitry that is affected by addiction:

• Basal Ganglia

The basal ganglia is the brain’s reward circuit. This part of the brain controls allows you to feel pleasure from necessary life activities such as eating and drinking. Feeling pleasure from these activities motivates you to repeat them. In the case of addiction, the basal ganglia gets confused between the addictive substance and necessary life activities. Suddenly, the brain thinks the addictive substance is just as necessary as food and drink. Over time, the basal ganglia’s new normal becomes having the addictive substance presence and does not produce feelings of pleasure for almost anything else.

• Amygdala

The amygdala is the part of the brain that controls emotion, particularly the emotion of fear. Repeated substance use makes the amygdala become used to the substance. When you stop using the substance, the amygdala produces feelings of anxiety as emotional withdrawal, prompting use to repeatedly use to alleviate the anxiety.

• Prefrontal Cortex

The prefrontal cortex control decision-making, problem-solving, and impulse regulation. This part of the brain is not fully developed until age 25. The addicted basal ganglia and amygdala put a strain on this part of the brain, causing those who struggle with addiction to not make the best decisions.

Treatment for Drug Addiction

Since addiction is a disease, you will need treatment to recover from it. Since addiction is a physical disease and is classified as medical disorder, you will need medical treatment. You will need to undergo medical detox to safely and comfortably go through withdrawal. Many addiction treatment facilities will also have dieticians and gourmet chefs plan and prepare to meals to give your body the necessary nutrients to repair the damage done by substance use. Other alternative therapies such as yoga and acupuncture may be used to aid in physical recovery.

Addiction is also a psychological and spiritual disorder. The disorder is psychological because a deeper psychological issue triggers the need for drug use. For example, if you grew up in an alcoholic home where your one parent was abusive and the other was codependent, that sets you up for emotional scars from the effects of growing up in such a dysfunctional system. The emotional scars trigger you to use the substance to cope with the bad memories from your childhood. When it comes to talking about addiction as a spiritual disorder, the word “spiritual” refers to a lack of connection to your own personal soul or lack of sense of self. The reason you lack a connection to your personal soul is most likely due to the psychological issue that is pressing you. Drug and alcohol use is only a symptom of deeper psychological and spiritual maladies.

Getting Your Family to Understand Your Addiction

Your family members may be having a hard time understanding our addiction. They may say to you, “Why can’t you just stop?” or “All it takes is willpower?” These statements are not true and are more about their suffering from the effects of your addiction than you as a person. Referring your family to support groups for themselves (e.g. Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, or Codependent’s Anonymous) to help connect with another family member of those who struggles with addiction. By hearing similar stories, they will slowly, but surely realize that addiction is a disease. Many rehabs will also hold family sessions and workshops. Addiction is a family disease. Just as you need to do your healing, your family needs to do their healing from the effects of the addiction.

In the end, you can only control your recovery, and your family will find recovery in their own time, even if they never find recovery. You may have family members that hold hostility years after you have been sober. Do not take it personally. Their issues are their issues. How you cope with your issues is what ultimately will make or break your life.

Rehabs in Columbus, Ohio are well-aware that addiction is a disease and how to treat it. Contact one today at 833-820-2922 to get started on your journey of healing.