Addiction is the number 1 health concern in America and a major problem throughout the world affecting millions of people. Despite the fact that addiction was declared a disease but the American Medical Association (AMA), the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) and other well respected medical communities and organizations, many groups and individuals still think “drug addicts are just weak-willed babies”. This article is meant to debunk the myths and help people understand addiction once and for all. I also want to clarify that these concepts aren’t just my personal beliefs, they are statement of fact and found on other well respected addiction, recovery and medicine based websites.
Debunking 10 Myths Associated with Addiction
1. Drug Addicts are Weak-willed Babies
This is false. Some of the strongest people I know are recovering addicts who were once controlled by their disease. Addiction is a chronic disease that alters the brain both chemically and structurally. It creates a cognitive compulsion and a ubiquitous connection (called cravings) that feels practically irresistible to the addict. Ongoing drug use with a perceived inability to stop is a symptom of the disease. Showing men and women suffering from addiction that they do indeed have a choice and that help is a real possibility is part of the solution.
2. Drug Addicts & Alcoholics Can Stop Using Anytime They Want To
This is false. While men and women suffering from addiction do have a choice to stop, drug addicts and alcoholics possess incredible cravings and a perceived inability to stop. Those who choose recovery first possess a desire to stop followed by hard work and perseverance. Couple addiction with dependence (the body’s physical reliance to a substance, so much so that without it, the body would go through physical withdrawal) makes stopping drug use that much more difficult. Learn more about addiction vs. dependence.
3. Drug Addicts Come From Low-Class Families
Addiction isn’t discriminatory and affects individuals and families of any socio-economic background, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference and religion. In fact, the face of drug and heroin addiction is so significantly stigmatized that this particular myth is still surprisingly commonplace.
4. Nobody in My Family is an Addict, So It Won’t Happen to Me
This is false. While its believed that those who acquire the disease of addiction possess a genetic predisposition, it doesn’t mean that anyone else in the family has to be an addict. A lot of people have a genetic predisposition but acquire a disease because there are environmental and circumstantial factors that contribute to its onset. For instance, your mother or father may possess a genetic predisposition to addiction but since they never indulge in drug use or alcohol, they never acquire it. Addiction is always accompanied by an “object” that compels the individual. The object can be a substance (like heroin, other drugs or alcohol) or an activity (like gambling, risky sex and work). Anything that touches the pleasure center of the brain in a particular way can be an object of addiction.
5. Addiction Makes Me a Bad Person
Men and women suffering from addiction aren’t bad people. Admittedly, their thinking and behaviors may be altered as a result of the brain damage associated with the disease and drug use, but this doesn’t make them bad and it doesn’t make them a moral failure. That said, if an addict can’t acquire their drug of choice at the time a craving hits, they will likely lie, cheat, manipulate and steal in order to get it. These behaviors however, are symptoms of the disease and not a result of a character defect.
6. All People that Use Drugs Are Addicted
This is false. It’s not 100% known why some people can use drugs or drink and not become addicted while others do. However, not everyone becomes addicted. Based on my reading and evidence-based research, I believe this is because those who become addicted possess a genetic predisposition and when a certain substance touches the pleasure center of the brain a certain way, the disease is triggered by the release of pleasure chemicals. But those who don’t possess the genetic predisposition may continue to use drugs without becoming addicted. However, certain drugs do possess properties of dependence and thus, ongoing drug use (regardless of whether or not someone becomes addicted) may produce dependence, resulting in withdrawal when drug use is stopped.
7. Drug Addicts Are Easy to Identify
Maybe if you see the same person using drugs every day, you can identify them. But despite stigma and stereotype, anyone can be a drug addict. It can be your neighbor, your co-worker, your best friend, your cousin, your son, your daughter. It can even be you. People start to use drugs for various reasons but addiction can happen to people you least expect.
8. You Can’t Be Addicted to Prescription Medication
This is false. Just because a doctor prescribes you medication, doesn’t mean that you haven’t become addicted to it. Many addicts will use more of a drug than prescribed in order to experience a “high” or a feeling of euphoria. Those that regularly do this are likely to have become addicted. See the “Characteristics of Addiction Vs. Recovery” for more information.
9. If You Can Go to Work, You Are Not Really Addicted
Just because you can function and go to work doesn’t mean you’re not an addict. True a lot of addicts get so high that they nod or pass out however, some use drugs to attempt to function more efficiently. Functional drug addicts do exist and are hard to spot. But they are at just as much risk over overdose and premature death (not to mention a total loss of everything) as someone who is a non-functional addict.
10. There’s Nothing Family or Friends Can Do to Help
While it’s true that nobody can force an addict to quit using drugs, there are things family and friends can do to steer someone who’s addicted towards treatment and recovery. This includes:
A) Making and following through with promises and consequences
B) Speaking with positivity and optimism
C) Giving encouragement when they do something right, like resist temptation
D) Creating and sticking to strong boundaries
E) Encouraging your loved one to get addiction help and treatment
F) Educating yourself on addiction and the substance/activity of choice
G) Being direct and authoritative in communication
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Written and Published by William Charles – Founder and Publisher for Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™