The negative impact of addiction is widely known. However, there are several serious misconceptions people still believe despite the latest research from mental health and therapy professionals.
In this article, we’re taking a closer look at 7 of the most common myths about addiction.
7 Myths About Addiction
While the research and industry knowledge on addiction treatment and long-term recovery has become a wealth to behold, the general knowledge towards how addiction works, what it really is and how to deal with it remains sorely lacking. Thanks to a mixture of societal stigma and media, we tend to have a very one-sided, simplistic view of addicts and their behavior – and that only serves to worsen the issue for us as a society.
You don’t have to like or respect drug addicts to understand that it’s important to stay current on addiction science if we’re ever going to beat addiction as a problem in society. And one of the best ways to achieving that is by busting a few simple myths. While there are a lot of misconceptions floating around out there regarding drug addiction, alcoholism, substance abuse and recovery, here are seven of the most egregious and currently relevant myths that need to be clarified.
Here are 7 myths about addiction you might believe.
1. All Addicts Are Bad People
This is one of the most hurtful myths about addiction people believe. There’s no denying the fact that being addicted comes with a lot of responsibility, starting with the responsibility to get sober. There’s also no denying the fact that addiction often occurs because of a bad choice or initial mistake, and that there is a correlation between drug use and crime.
But that does not mean that drug addicts are bad people categorically, or that crime and drugs automatically go together without very important additional context. Before we tackle why the stigma against drug addicts – and the assumption that they’re morally bankrupt – is extremely harmful to solving drugs as an issue today, it’s important to understand what causes addiction.
The answer? It’s a long list of things. The factors that govern how much a person can be addicted to any certain substance is long and involves a variety of very different reasons such as:
- Economic Status
- Family History
- Childhood Trauma
- Peer Pressure
Men are more likely to be addicted to drugs – but the rate for female drug abuse is on the rise, faster than that of men. Furthermore, while it’s true that many addicts are poor, the fastest-growing demographic for substance abuse lies in those who economically qualify as upper class.
Stress and peer pressure go towards creating an environment where addiction is possible, as do accidents and chronic illnesses like chronic pain or migraines, or a family history of drug abuse. Furthermore, some people could have no history of drug abuse in the family but are still genetically predisposed to alcoholism.
We can’t tell for sure what factors are at play in every single case, only that there is research to back up the involvement of each of the above factors and that every case is different and unique. And that’s what makes addiction tough to talk about – its cause can’t be generalized, simplified, or blamed on a single issue or problem. It’s a complex system of related issues, medical and societal. Because of that, it affects people from all walks of life in all income classes and for various reasons.
2. Addiction Cannot Be Beaten Alone
While it’s true that many systems of addiction treatment are based on group efforts, group therapy, group confessions and dedicated treatment facilities (from rehab to sober living houses and halfway homes), the myth that addiction is something you cannot beat alone are simply untrue, as well.
You can beat addiction alone. You can go cold turkey and be rid of it forever. Or you can wean yourself off a drug, if you are physically dependent and cold turkey is too dangerous.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you will. There’s no telling whether you can beat your addiction alone until you do – but many people manage it, especially in the case of alcoholism or nicotine. It’s unknown why some people can beat their vices alone and others can’t get past the critical curve without help, but it further goes to show that addicts and addiction cases are never cut from the same cloth.
3. An Ex-Addict Can’t Be A Good Father/Mother/Caretaker
It’s rather obvious that an active addict can’t be the best caretaker. Addiction can burrow its way into the mind and make you unreliable, unable to rely even on yourself to make the right choices because the allure of your drug is far too powerful.
But that doesn’t mean that successfully recovering or recovered addicts somehow have lost the ability or privilege to be a talented, capable caretaker. If anything, overcoming and undermining addiction is a feat of mental strength and no small amount of hope and courage, and is very much a means to grow character and develop a more empathic perspective. That helps a lot when taking care of a loved one, regardless of age or ability/disability.
Addiction doesn’t corrode your will forever – recovery is hard, but it’s a road that, if anything, only serves to bolster and embolden a person’s will.
4. Legal Medication Doesn’t Count As Addictive
Just because you do need those pain meds for your leg, doesn’t mean that abusing them isn’t a form of drug addiction. Medication doesn’t just count as a valid form of addiction when it’s gotten in illegal quantities through a stolen prescription pad or the improper channels.
People can abuse and get addicted to a wide range of medication that’s prescribed to them, and become dependent on it regardless of the improvement (or lack thereof) in their pain or condition. Common prescription drugs that can possibly lead to addiction include:
- Sleep Aids
5. Addicts Always Stick To One Drug
It’s relatively common to speak of a drug of choice, and pretend like someone being addicted to a specific substance is usually limited to that substance – insofar that if someone abuses, say, cocaine, then they’ll usually be a cocaine addict and that’s it.
The reality is the opposite – ecstasy users, for example, consume several different types of drugs including alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana on top of ecstasy, and about 40 percent of ecstasy users also use meth. Addiction isn’t always dependent on the substance – while there are a few substances that achieve a similar effect, they can and often are used interchangeably, and the issue is less one of targeting a specific drug, and more about targeting addiction and treating it.
6. Addicts Recover Best Through Shame
Alongside the general stigma surrounding addiction is this belief that the best way for addicts to recover is to shame them into sobriety, pushing them to reject drugs on the notion of being ashamed of having even begun using them at all.
Sadly, a lot of treatment plans function based on this. They tackle the issue of promoting sobriety by vilifying and stigmatizing drug use – without understanding the context, circumstances or reasons behind drug use.
Addicts typically already feel ashamed, especially if they’re in recovery. Shame is one of the powerful emotional drivers behind the continued cycle of addiction, driving addicts to seek the solace of their habit or substance. Promoting it has no place in treatment.
7. Every Drug User Is An Addict
This is a surprising bit of information, and a myth to most people – drug users, including hard drug users, are not automatically addicted to their drugs.
Yes, using drugs is bad for your health, and always poses the risk of developing an addiction, and most drugs have no concrete benefit and pose nothing more than a reckless risk to your health – including nicotine and alcohol – yet it helps to understand more about the nature of addiction when learning that only about 15 percent of cocaine users are addicts after a decade.
It’s all a matter of dosage, personal capability, and the strength of a drug. Cocaine and heroin are bad, and more addictive than alcohol generally, but for specific individuals, alcohol may be much worse than a line of coke. Again – the drug here doesn’t matter. The drugs may not even be the problem if the failures of a prohibition are any indication. What matters is that we learn how best to prevent misuse and abuse of addictive substances.
Now that you know some of the most common myths about addiction, you know how difficult it can be for people with an addiction to reach out for help.
Myths about addiction create stigma, which makes it difficult for people to talk about their problem (let alone admit it to themself). With this in mind, it’s important to keep an open mind and understand that substance abuse and addiction are problems that many people struggle with. In fact, there is a good chance you know someone who has a problem.
We’re all in this together and experience different struggles throughout life.
Be kind and take care of both yourself and the people around you.