There are many addiction myths that plague society. The truth is addiction is a disease with both human behavior and biology in its source. This makes it a complicated disease to understand, identify, prevent and treat.
While there is no one, right answer, there should be one, right motive: helping the individual struggling with drugs or alcohol. In this article, we will reveal the most common addiction, drug and rehab myths. By knowing the truth, you can better help yourself or your loved one overcome addiction.
Myth #1: Addiction Can Be Cured
While there is no cure for addiction, there is the ability to manage it. Ongoing treatment sustains sobriety and prevents relapse. Through a continual commitment to sobriety, you can live a life free of drugs and alcohol.
If an addict claims he or she is cured, there is a risk he or she is no longer attending meetings and therapy sessions — essential to sustaining lifelong recovery. These “cured” people are more at risk for relapse than the person who admits he or she must always work toward not one ultimate cure, but day-by-day good choices to be clean.
Addiction isn’t like a cancer diagnosis — it’s a disease that’s an off-balance of the body, teetering slightly from time to time, not readable through scans and blood tests as “present” or “in remission”. Addiction is only identifiable through actions and words. This makes the disease a difficult one to identify, prevent and treat.
The first step to getting on the road to recovery is identifying there is a problem. Families and friends are often the first to see drug or alcohol use is negatively affecting their loved one. Getting your loved one to admit there is a problem and accept professional help is essential to lifelong recovery. While you can’t expect your loved one to be cured and never use again, you can hope for a better life in sobriety.
Myth #2: Only Corrupt People Use Drugs
In life, the head strays from pure ways, but the heart always remains. Have you ever been so upset that you’ve reacted with emotion before thought? Of course, we all have, but does that mean we are all bad? That notion doesn’t help anyone.
Those who use drugs are not corrupt or bad. They are people struggling with underlying issues that lead them to use. Often these underlying issues are untreated mental health disorders.
Those struggling with addiction also do not have the resources they need to not use. From money and emotional support to knowledge and good life examples, most who use drugs or alcohol do not have what they need to stop. They are not bad or weak — they are just without what they need to live a life free from drugs and alcohol.
Non-violent crimes, such as drug use, are crimes against the self — not society. In general, users turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate, trying to treat pain. While using is not justified, it can be viewed as a human reaction to suffering — a survival mechanism. The addicted can lose the ability to derive pleasure from everyday activities, which makes suffering constant and incessant.
Wake Forest University performed a study on monkeys that found a correlation between their hierarchy and the amount of cocaine they wanted. The more dominant ones — those higher up in the pecking order — had less interest in the cocaine while the lower monkeys had more. This shows that addiction is closely tied to one’s position — perceived or real — in society.
One of the most common personality traits associated with addicts is the feeling of inadequacy. Alcohol and drugs give a sense of dominance and power, but they don’t actually provide emotional maturity or long-lasting confidence.
Judging an addict only feeds his or her inadequacy and desire to use. People who are addicted to drugs aren’t bad — they’re hurting. To effectively fight drug or alcohol addiction in society, we need to stop criminalizing those who struggle with addiction and start providing the help they need.
Myth #3: Legal Drugs Aren’t Dangerous
Of all the drug myths, this one can be the most dangerous.
It’s easy to understand why someone taking a prescription drug feels a sense of security. After all, it is a legal drug prescribed by a doctor. Legal drugs, however, can be incredibly dangerous.
Prescribed drugs contribute to the majority of overdoses and addictions. Taking a potentially addictive drug, strictly how it’s prescribed, requires self-discipline and education. Misusing medication is an act of substance abuse.
Legal artificial drugs are also dangerous. You may remember the face-eating bath salt incident of 2012. Synthetic and manmade drugs are more potent when altered from original recipes. They are also loopholes in drug trade. Legality doesn’t coincide with potential danger.
When a drug is prohibited from the market, chemistry can excuse its sister drug’s emergence from legal reprimand. Manufacturers’ rate of productivity beat the legal system’s bans.
Lastly, alcohol and tobacco, available at our neighborhood corner store, are some of the most lethal and addicting substances out there. They are also the most socially accepted substances.
Myth #4: Addiction Is a Matter of Choice
This is a myth born from of an ongoing debate called The Addiction Paradox: Is addiction a choice or a disease?
The choice to use a drug differs from the driving force causing one to need it. Whether this driving force is biological or behavioral, both can puppeteer the body with merciless cravings.
If addiction were purely behavioral, it could be cured with a pill that eliminates the desired effects of substances. These pills exist. One example is Antabuse (Disulfiram), a pill that makes you sick when drinking alcohol.
The problem is that the human brain is too intelligent to be tricked. You cannot forget the reward drinking and drugs once created. The medication doesn’t suffice the urge to chase a remembered, great feeling. Reward is tied closer to memory than regret.
Doing or not doing a drug is your choice, but it’s a hard one you may lose power over, especially when your body and mind are addicted to the substance. Addiction is a disease. Just as you can’t choose to not have cancer, you cannot choose to not suffer from addiction.
What you can choose, however, is to get the help you need to overcome your addiction. You can also choose to be committed to sobriety. Together, these two choices can help you achieve lifelong sobriety.
Myth #5: Addiction Is Not Biological
While we do not know the exact cause of addiction, we do know there are genetic markers that point to one’s susceptibility to becoming addicted. There are biological reasons why one struggles with drugs and alcohol, just as there are environmental factors.
Substance abuse often stems from mental health illness. Mental health illness is a product of insufficient neurotransmitters in the brain, which can be a reaction to one’s environment or self, or it can have genetic roots.
Many studies done on animals show that addiction is a disease. Animals don’t have a conscience, but they can still depend on drugs, as proven in experiments. Babies, without the ability to choose, are also born addicted to substances if the mother uses while pregnant.
Withdrawal is doubtless proof of the difference between a drug being a pleasurable want and a need to survive. After prolonged use, withdrawal can be highly painful and in some cases even deadly.
If we deny that addiction is a disease, insurance companies won’t reimburse treatment.
Myth #6: You Must Hit Rock Bottom to Change
Rock bottom is a sure way to instill positive transformation because it’s terrible — the most terrible a situation can be (hence the name). However, if this extremely low point can be avoided, then you should avoid it. The earlier you get treatment, the better.
Using drugs can result in legal troubles, broken relationships, destroyed careers and even death. Finding your unique road to recovery now is dodging these accidental outcomes. Choose to live before you don’t have a choice. Waiting for rock bottom could be the decision not to go on without even realizing it.
No one will claim the pinnacle of his or her life was on some bender. Benders may feel good at the time, but not the kind of soul-tickling good you feel when falling in love, learning something new or getting a promotion.
Myth #7: Recovery Is Religious
Recovery encourages everyone to seek out a higher power: something or someone you relinquish control over to for those things that you cannot change. This higher power can be what makes the sun rise and set, or it can be God. The recovery process can be a spiritual one, while not being tied to any one religion.
God shouldn’t be a word that turns you off from AA or recovery, but a symbolic one, representing whatever you believe will pave the way to your success. Believing in something bigger than yourself is thinking bigger, and superior forces are out there. Have faith in that.
If some part of treatment isn’t clicking — such as a word, phrase or general idea — personally redefine whatever to fit your needs rather than absconding recovery. A closed mind is just as useless as one that’s high.
If you really want help, don’t excuse yourself from not getting it — that’s pardoning yourself from a gift and preconceived philosophies are silly things to have as obstacles.
Myth #8: Addiction Can Be Tamed With Moderate Use
If you’re someone who eagerly seeks out substances to alter your mood or for an emotional outlet, chances are moderate use is not achievable. By trying to use moderately, you put yourself at risk for abuse and its many negative effects on your health and overall well being.
Instant gratification is the root of impulse. Delayed gratification is happiness sturdily built on a foundation. Every time you opt for the instant fix, you are missing out on building that foundation.
When a problem has been defined as a problem, the source should be removed — unless it is a life necessity such as food or sex. By using less, you are still using and depending on a substance with potentially dangerous effects.
The longer you use drugs or alcohol, the less good they feel and the more they take a toll on your health. With time, you will have to take more to feel better, and moderate use becomes impossible.
Just as we get hungry for food, the addicted get hungry to use. The difference is we must eat to survive and we use to only die. If deciding to be sober, why not be sober? Own the title. Drugs or alcohol are not life necessities. No one needs them, no matter how much you may feel gut-wrenching cravings.
Furthermore, if prescribed medication, be wary of how you use it. Mixing prescribed drugs with other substances, especially alcohol, can be a lethal cocktail and an ultimate depressant.
Myth #9: Addicts Can Just Stop When They Want
The urge to use can come from an unrealized trigger, a traumatic experience or a perpetual mental health illness. Some drugs, such as crack, can be addicting from first use. Quitting is not based on willpower alone.
People struggling with addiction often deny the severity of the problem, saying they will stop when they want. However, the power of addiction makes users not ever want to quit. If they do get to the point where they accept change is needed, they often don’t have the ability to stop using without professional treatment.
Myth #10: An Addict Most Likely Will Use Again
Sobriety is more common of an achievement than people think. The odds of recovering are in the addict’s favor. Again, because there is no cure, no statistics can accurately depict recovery. What we do know is those who choose to change tend to maintain a vastly improved lifestyle. Relapses happen, but they do not mean the addict has failed.
The recovery aim should be toward progress, not perfection. Rather than concentrating on addiction as a problem, you can view it as a challenge that can be overcome each day.
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