There are all kinds of myths surrounding addiction to drugs and alcohol that give people the wrong impression about the disease and those who suffer from it. Myths based on untruths stigmatize addiction in the eyes of others and they also minimize the dangers of using drugs or alcohol, and this promotes substance abuse. Increasing awareness about the myths of substance abuse and dependence will help to advance the cause for recovery, sobriety and healing from addiction. Here are four myths about addiction you should know.
#1 Addicts are Bad People
The myth that all addicts are bad people who are weak, immoral and have no self-control over their habit can’t be further from the truth. The fact is that the disease has physical, psychological, social and environmental factors that enable it from inception. Addiction is a complex, progressive disease that should be treated by professional intervention to be effective. It is a life-long process of staying sober and on the right path with the help of professional counselors and therapists, support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, and supportive friends and family.
During the time the individual was deep in their disease, they may have committed all kinds of reprehensible acts under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These substances change brain chemistry, which negatively affects many brain functions and behavior. You could say that the person was not in his or her right mind at the time, because reality was altered by the substances and they reacted accordingly.
Once the person’s body has gone through detox, the brain needs time to readjust to being normal again. Normal chemical functions may have completely stopped because of the effects of drugs or alcohol, and it will take time to return to normal. As long as there was no permanent damage done to the brain, the individual should begin to return to their normal self. Judging them based on behavior they exhibited while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is longer valid as they have changed. The myth that addicts are bad people is not true. The truth is that drug and alcohol abuse is bad for people.
# 2 People can only be Addicted to One Drug at a Time
This is also not true. Most addicts may have one substance of choice, but are usually dependent upon multiple drugs at the same time. Many are addicted to three or more substances, and this is known as polysubstance abuse. They will use a few different substances to increase the intensity of the high it produces and to prolong it. Polysubstance abuse is a much more complex addiction, and is more difficult to treat.
# 3 Prescription Drugs are Safer
People also believe the myth that prescription drugs are safer to take because they are legal and prescribed by a doctor. There are fewer stigmas attached to being addicted to prescription drugs, yet these medications are just as dangerous as illicit drugs. The U.S. is experiencing a prescription painkiller epidemic because so many people are addicted to these drugs. The U.S. uses approximately eighty percent of the world’s opioid prescription drug output. Opioid drugs are highly addictive and cause adverse effects in the brain and body when abused. More than 50 people in this country alone die every day due to prescription painkiller overdose. Many who start out abusing these painkillers later resort turn to using heroin as a cheaper and faster way to get high. Heroin claims another 29 lives in this country every day.
# 4 Addicts Should be Punished
Another myth that some people believe is that addicts should be punished for their behavior. Some rehabilitation facilities practice shame-based treatments to try to motivate patients to stay sober. The truth is that addicts are already ashamed and have a vast array of negative emotions swirling in their head. They are experiencing feelings of shame, guilt, loss, remorse, grief, fear, confusion and more. The last thing they need is more negative input by the people around them. Shame has been shown to be a strong predictor of relapse, and strong negative emotions may cause psychological stress, suicidal ideation and actions. A recovering addict should be treated with respect and integrity. Treat them well by setting the example yourself. Exude self-confidence, humility, kindness, patience and love and extend it to a recovering addict. Be supportive in their efforts to stay sober and always treat them the same way you want people to treat you.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.