There are many myths about addiction. These myths are hurtful and, when loved ones of people suffering from addiction are misled by these false ideas, can greatly harm a person’s support group and hinder their recovery. If you know someone who is battling addiction, learning about the following myths and the truth behind them can help you better support them through their long journey to recovery.
10 Myths about Addiction
- Addiction is a choice. Recovering from addiction has nothing to do with willpower. No one chooses to become an addict, just like they do not choose to have cancer or diabetes. Genetics make up approximately half of a person’s risk for addiction; the rest is due to environmental factors and upbringing, as well as the influence of peers.
- Using drugs to get off drugs is merely replacing one substance with another and is ineffective. Medication can be very helpful in curbing cravings for some people battling addiction. However, like everything in addiction recovery, not everyone responds the same to all treatment options. Prescription medications that curb cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms can be quite effective for some but problematic for others. That’s why it’s important to have the oversight of a qualified treatment provider.
- Only weak people succumb to addiction. Addiction does, in fact, happen to many different people from every walk of life, from middle-aged, suburban soccer moms to teens raised in wealthy homes to adults living in poverty. Seeking help is the strongest thing an addict can do. Asking for assistance is not a sign of weakness.
- Methamphetamine addictions are more difficult to recover from and those who suffer from methamphetamine addictions are more likely to fail in treatment. There is no data proving this statement to be true. People who need treatment may be deterred from seeking help due to the hopelessness this type of myth produces.
- Addicts are worthless people and deserve to be punished. When a person has an addiction, it is often assumed that they are not contributing members of society, are weak-willed, or immoral. People can be quite hostile to addicts, a hostility that’s not present towards people who suffer from other chronic illnesses. This stigma, again, can prevent people from seeking help. They may be ashamed or feel as though they are not good enough to ask for it.
- Tough love is the best approach to force an addict to get help. Studies have proven that in most cases tough love makes a person’s addiction worse. The individual will most likely feel alienated from the people they rely on and trust most. In many cases they continue to use alcohol or drugs in secret in an attempt to maintain the support of the people who love them.
- Addiction is not a disease. Science has continued to evolve in this area, and it’s largely accepted among the treatment community today that addiction is, in fact, a disease. When it is treated as such, the approach to treatment and behavioral changes reflect the long-term change required to control a chronic illness over a lifespan.
- Addiction to illicit drugs is different than addiction to prescription drugs such as painkillers. Legal drugs – those prescribed by physicians – do not have the same stigma as street drugs. Because a drug is legal and can be used safely if used as prescribed, people often believe that they are safer than illicit drugs (such as heroin or cocaine). This is a dangerous myth. In fact, misusing prescription medications can often lead to the abuse of illicit substances. For instance, if a person begins taking prescription pills as prescribed for an injury, they may later turn to illicit substances like heroin when their doctor will no longer prescribe them or refuses to prescribe a larger amount. Additionally, an overdose of prescription medications is just as harmful and life-threatening as an overdose of an illicit substance.
- Relapses are a sign of failure and shouldn’t happen if treatment is effective. Most people who attempt recovery will use alcohol or drugs again to some degree. The majority of individuals will experience a relapse at some point, but this is not a failure; it is part of the natural process of recovery. Obviously, relapses are undesirable and the goal is to avoid them, but those who do experience a relapse should maintain faith that they can get back on the road to recovery (and take steps to do so as soon as possible).
- Addiction is something people never recover from. People recovering from addiction must take personal responsibility and exhibit self-control, and it’s true that the recovery process is a lifelong effort. Addicts who have been clean for decades still consider themselves to be “recovering” and often continue participating in outpatient treatment, such as AA meetings, years after they’ve last touched their drug of choice, or any drug for that matter. While recovery is a lifelong commitment, recovery is entirely possible, and you can enjoy a healthy, productive life despite a former addiction.
Ignoring the Myths
There are many more myths surrounding addiction in addition to those described here. The important thing to remember is that myths are just that. While some prevailing myths are born from a shred of factual information, educating yourself about the realities of addiction is the best way to be supportive for someone who is making the journey to recovery.
Steve Johnson co-created PublicHealthLibrary.org with a fellow pre-med student.The availability of accurate health facts, advice, and general answers is something Steve wants for all people, not just those in the health and medical field. He continues to spread trustworthy information and resources through the website, but also enjoys tennis and adding to his record collection in his spare time.