The expression for the force on an ion in the presence of current can be derived from first principles without any assumption about its conservative character. However, energy functionals have been constructed that indicate that this force can be written as the derivative of a potential. On the other hand, there exist specific arguments that strongly suggest the contrary. We propose physical mechanisms that invalidate such arguments and demonstrate their existence with first-principles calculations. While our results do not constitute a formal resolution to the fundamental question of whether current-induced forces are conservative, they represent a substantial step forward in this direction.