As one of the most stigmatized conditions in the world, addiction practically invites misconceptions. We’ve rounded up a few of the most common of the many myths that surround this complicated issue with the hopes of shedding a little light on this much misunderstood topic, and of imparting a few critical facts about it to anyone who is or is a loved one of someone who is struggling. Though addiction can be a very dangerous condition, it is not a hopeless one, and staying as informed as possible can be a way of staying one step ahead of the worst.
1. Drug Addiction Is A Matter Of Willpower
The first and perhaps most damaging myth about addiction is that conquering it is a mere matter of willpower. In actuality, addiction is a complex disease caused by a confluence of biological vulnerability and predisposing psychosocial factors, and often requires formal medical treatment before somebody is able to get sober. Blaming a loved one for their condition and conceptualizing it as a moral failing is unlikely to do much good, while instead encouraging them to seek help will ultimately afford them with the resources they need to be able to turn their life around.
2. Shaming Drug Addicts Will Make Them Change Their Ways
While some drug addicts may respond to an accusation of substance abuse by denying that there is anything wrong, many of them are in fact aware that they have a problem but are too afraid of sobriety and ashamed of their condition to come forward and seek help.
Adding further shame to the guilt and self hatred that someone suffering from a substance use disorder likely already feels is unlikely to do much good, and, in the worst case scenario, could send them spiraling even further into their addiction.
Instead, you should make an effort to maintain the utmost compassion and respect for a loved one who is suffering from addiction while also being clear and unyielding about the need for them to seek help and taking any measures necessary to preserve their safety. This empathetic approach could help you preserve your relationship with them through this difficult time.
3. Addiction Is Always Obvious
When asked to think about someone with a severe addiction problem, many might imagine someone who is completely dysfunctional—homeless, unemployed, and abandoned by their friends and loved ones. While that is the reality for many people who struggle with substance abuse, there are also many people who experience addiction without showing any of these obvious outward signs.
These “high-functioning” addicts may be able to continue to maintain or even excel in a career, take care of their family obligations, and maintain many other markers of a successful life even while they are frequently using drugs and destroying their physical and mental health in the process. Addiction doesn’t discriminate, and high functioning addicts need and deserve help as much as those who are more obviously impaired by their substance abuse.
4. Relapse Means Recovery Is Impossible Or That Treatment Has Failed
According to the National Institute Of Health, forty to sixty percent of people who undergo treatment for a substance abuse disorder will eventually relapse. Addiction is a chronic, lifelong condition, and triggers like extreme stress or a flare up of an underlying mental illness can sometimes get the best of even addicts who started their substance abuse treatment with a sincere intent to recover.
However, a relapse does not mean that their treatment has failed, or that they will be unable to get sober in the future. About three quarters of those seeking treatment for an addiction are eventually able to recover, and a full one in ten American adults identifies as being in recovery. With more time in treatment, formative life experiences, and perhaps a growing maturity, most addicts will eventually be able to build on the coping skills they have learned and find the strength to get clean for good.
5. Only Some Mind Altering Substances Are Addictive
While alcoholism and addiction to some other “harder” substances like heroin and cocaine are relatively well known, it’s important to remember that these commonly abused drugs are not the only drugs that can cause addiction. For instance, marijuana, which is usually thought of as relatively innocuous, can cause serious enough symptoms of psychological dependence to warrant a substance use disorder diagnosis and professional treatment, and detoxing from the drug could result in protracted psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms.
Some people also do not realize that some prescription drugs are just as addictive as some illegal or recreational ones, or that someone may become addicted to them even if they were initially prescribed for a legitimate medical reason. For instance, abuse of opioid based painkillers, stimulants like Adderall, and sedatives like benzodiazepines could all cause life altering and life threatening addiction problems.
These medications can be dangerous both in and of themselves and as potential gateway drugs: a stunning 80 percent of heroin users started out misusing prescription opioids. Drug abuse should always be taken seriously and addressed with professional treatment, no matter what substance is involved.
For more information on addiction, withdrawal, and what you can do to help yourself or someone you love who is currently struggling with substance abuse, feel free to call our confidential helpline today at (833) 489-5577.