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The topic of drug and alcohol addiction continues to be surrounded by a number of myths that cause some people to be misinformed as they accept the myth without questioning its truth.
When a myth is treated as a reality, it often influences a person’s beliefs, judgment, and actions. Although myths will, most likely, always exist regarding the very emotional and often confusing topic of addiction, read on to discover the truth about the 7 most common myths of addiction.
Myth #1: If You Want to Stop Using Drugs or Alcohol You Can – Just Use Your Willpower
When a person is addicted to drugs or alcohol, willpower is not enough. Addiction is not a choice; it is a disease. The American Society of Addiction Medicine states that addiction “is a primary, chronic disease of the brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.” It causes the person to have such a strong compulsive need for their drug of choice that they are unable to stop even though they know it is harmful to continue.
Myth #2: Being Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol Is a Moral Failing
Closely tied to the myth that willpower is enough to stop a drug or alcohol addiction is the myth that addiction is a moral failing. For centuries, people with a substance abuse addiction were seen as lacking in moral fiber. They were viewed as weak and lacking in willpower. Although this view is still held by some people, it is now scientifically proven that addiction is a disease. It is not a choice or a moral failing.
An individual suffering with a substance abuse addiction experiences the following:
- Their brain has been physically changed by the drugs.
- A compulsive need to continue using has been created.
- Normal decision-making abilities are inhibited.
Both proper treatment and ongoing management are necessary for long-term recovery.
Myth #3: If You Relapse You Are a Failure
A relapse does not mean you are a failure. It does not mean that your previous treatments or your support system have failed. For many individuals, a relapse is a normal part of the recovery process. If it is viewed as a failure, the individual may feel guilt, shame, hopelessness, apathy, or anxiety. These emotional responses are unhealthy and unnecessary. They not only hurt the individual but also those who love him or her. They could also lead to continued substance abuse.
A relapse often indicates the following:
- The need to go back into treatment
- The need for changes or modifications in the treatment plan
- The need for additional types of treatment
When necessary changes are made to the treatment plan, a person’s chance of maintaining their sobriety increases.
Myth #4: There is Nothing Family or Friends Can Do to Help
This myth implies that the support and actions of loved ones do not factor into a person’s ability to recover from an addiction in any way. It maintains that family and friends do not have any power against the addiction. Naturally, no one can make an addicted person stop using, but there are many things that friends and family can do to improve and support their loved one. Be encouraging about the treatment your loved one is going through and take part in family treatment. Talk about the underlying reasons for their substance abuse.
- Be supportive and encouraging by giving a hug or complimenting a job well done.
- Remain positive and optimistic.
- Remain consistent with expectations, rules, and consequences.
- Keep your promises.
- Learn about the addiction and the substance of choice.
Myth #5: It’s Easy to Recognize a person Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol
See that homeless person over there? He must be a drug addict. She lost her job and is such an all-around loser. She must be on something. Yes, there are people that do think this way. The myth that people addicted to drugs or alcohol are unemployed, homeless, poor, of a certain race or ethnicity, spreads harmful misinformation. There is no stereotypical substance abuser.
The truth is anyone, from any walk of life, can become addicted to drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse addiction does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone. It could happen to you, a family member, a friend, your neighbor, your child’s teacher, even your family physician.
Myth #6: If It’s a Prescribed Medication You Cannot Be Addicted To It
A common assumption is the belief that if your physician prescribes a medication then it is non-addictive and completely safe to take. Sadly, this is not true. There are many highly potent prescribed medications that have the possibility of abuse and addiction.
The following are some of the prescribed medications that people can abuse and become addicted to:
- Opioids – Pain relievers including hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin), fentanyl, codeine, and morphine
- Sleep aids – Ambien (zolpidem), Lunesta (eszopiclone) and Sonata (zaleplon)
- Benzodiazepines – tranquilizers such as Valium, Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin
- Stimulants – Medications for ADHD including Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, Biphetamine, and Dexedrine
- Barbituates – used for treating insomnia, headaches, and seizures include Seconal, Fioricet, and Nembutal
Myth #7: Going to a Rehabilitation Facility Does Not Work
For many people, going to a residential facility is a highly effective form of treatment. When the addicted person is removed from their current situation and environment, they are able to focus completely on their treatment. While at the facility, residents receive the help they need in all aspects of their life including mental and physical health, addiction support, and the life skills they need to maintain their sobriety.
It is important to choose a facility that provides treatment that focuses on the whole person rather than just on the addiction. Canyon Vista Recovery Center, in Mesa, Arizona, provides clients with an extended care treatment program that addresses all aspects of their recovery through traditional and advanced holistic therapies, exercise, nutrition, and educational process groups.