What is the Role of Willpower in Addiction?

Willpower is defined as ‘control exerted to do something or restrain impulses’, the term ‘lack of will power’ is associated with failing to kick an addiction or bad habit. The assumption is often made that willpower plays a major part in the recovery from addiction.

Whilst it is fair to say that will power is a contributing factor to recovery success, it is important to recognise that addiction is a complex and often chronic brain disease that cannot simply be controlled by strength of mind. Reward pathways in the brain are stimulated and provide feelings of positivity and happiness when a substance is digested.

Dopamine levels are triggered when a drug is taken and, over a period of time, the use of substances takes over the circuits in the brain responsible for the reward feeling. The urge to use increases as does the levels of substance required to get that feeling. It takes time for the brain and circuits to the brain to recover and find new reward stimulants.

I Can('t) Do It

The more willpower you have - the better!

For recovery from addiction to be successful there needs to be a want and responsibility to recover. This can mean cutting ties with people and places you associated with your habit, replacing the euphoric feeling generated from using with exercise, trips out and new focuses. Counselling and support from professionals, family and friends can also be a major contributing factor.

Often a degree of hope is needed to start the process to recovery and self-belief, hope that you can do this, hope that you will have a better day to day existence, hope that you will forge new relationships and positive interactions, hope that you will live a normal and fulfilling life like those around you.

There will undoubtedly be moments when will power will be tested and the choice between giving in to your urges versus doing the right thing will be strong, but with a mixture of medical, emotional and personal support and strength, the path to recovery is available to all who choose to walk it.