Addiction Myths Solved Once and for All
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.
Fact: You Can Overcome Addiction
Are you no longer in control of your decisions? Do you have a loved one who is struggling with drugs or alcohol? Choose to live now that you have all the facts. Call 12 Keys Rehab today at 1-866-480-4328 to get started on the path to lifelong recovery.
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. Get your loved one help now.
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.
Myth #11: You Can/Can’t Quit on Your Own
Neither of these drug myths is true. Based on the individual’s situation, both can be possible or impossible.
In general, however, for most people, support is necessary. The support of those going through the same burdening dilemma can be a secret weapon in recovery.
AA is an effective treatment program that works if you stay committed to it. It is extremely difficult to escape the reality of your addiction by only being around people who aren’t addicts. Only addicts can really understand the process and do the steps of the program with you. Other addicts feel the same urges that you do and have faced having to cope with them, but only you know what it’s like to be in your particular shoes.
It’s not recommended to fight a war with a one-person army, but if the one fighter is a super destructive gladiator, then it’s possible. This means change comes from within you — real change is your doing, and you need to have a very strong core to swing it alone. Your road to recovery, however, will be easier to travel when you don’t have to go it alone.
Myth #12: Relapse Is Failure
Relapse is not a failure. It is a lapse in sobriety — a lapse that can be corrected.
Relapse isn’t a notion to toy around with. Your next give-in to a craving could be the deadly bullet. Relapse should be a part of recovery by acknowledging it as a potential misstep and taking steps to prevent it from happening.
You know drugs exist, and you know what they mean to you. These two things won’t change, but treatment is a plan that deals with the realism of that relationship. It doesn’t require eliminating drugs from the world, just eliminating them from entering your body.
When someone relapses, it isn’t failure. He or she has just hit a bump on the road and must continue on. You can never be faulted for trying. To acknowledge the insidious possibilities of setbacks in your progress prepares you with an open-mind. Formulating a defense against the chance of using is a preventive method. Saying relapse will never happen ignores the possibility of it.
Myth #13: Addiction Cannot Be Treated With More Drugs
Some prescribed medications do help. Anti-depressants and non-addictive prescriptions greatly aid with underlying mental health illnesses that may have motivated the addiction to transpire in the first place.
This myth does have some truth in it, however. Suboxone and Methadone are more of a slippery slope. They replace dopamine the addict may have trouble producing naturally, but should be avoided for long-term use at all costs. These methods are best served when taken during withdrawal to lessen pain and discomfort. If not weaned off properly, they have the potential to be more addicting than the initial drug at hand.
Often, doctors prescribe them for alleged irreversible brain damage on the dopamine receptors in the brain, but your brain can heal — it’s a muscle that tears and rebuilds as you work it out. Supplying your brain with synthetic dopamine will lessen the authentic happiness that comes from life. Saying to avoid these chemicals isn’t a lecture on being tougher, it’s a reminder that you have a deserved right to live better.
Myth #14: Marijuana Isn’t Physically Addicting
Anything that instills the feeling of reward can be addicting. Marijuana reworks brain chemistry just like any other drug and just like anything affecting the reward pathway of the brain. Addiction is when it’s hard to function without using, and many people have suffered from this while using marijuana.
Myth #15: Using Drugs Is a Crime That Should Be Punishable by Law
Drug use is typically a nonviolent crime. Those addicted to drugs do not intend to hurt others. What those addicted to drugs need is treatment, not punishment. The punitive method for stopping use is not highly effective.
If your loved one is struggling with drugs or alcohol, you shouldn’t treat them as criminals. Watching over and criticizing addicts’ behaviors may cause them to hide more. You want to be an ally to the one you love.
While addiction is a disease and a health issue, using drugs still has repercussions. The law will catch up to you, your body will shut down, or your spirit and emotions will be broken. The true desire to change comes from caring about your body, the vessel you live in and see the world through. So instead of choosing to be sober because you will or already have gotten in trouble, think more about how you want to live.
Myth #16: All Rehabs Are the Same
A prevalent addiction rehab myth is that all programs are the same. Rehabs vary by the type of treatments they offer to the length of stay of their programs. Different rehab programs also offer different amenities. Location can be another key difference in rehabs.
When choosing your rehab, make sure they are ertified and look for one that offers customized treatment programs. Just as no two people are alike, no two recoveries are the same. The path you took to addiction is a unique one. So too is the path you will take to lifelong recovery.
The most successful rehabs offer a range of treatment modalities, from Cognitive Behavioral to family therapy. The rehab program you choose should address your specific needs, goals, challenges and interests. Comprehensive rehabs offer holistic care that can heal you on every level: physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual.
Myth #17: Treatment Is in the Hands of the Addict
If you have a loved one struggling with addiction, you can be vital in their treatment. Addicts should not have to walk the path to recovery alone.
How people influence and treat addicts plays a huge role in their recovery. You can help your loved one by adopting better lifestyle choices. When you make the right changes, you are more likely to see the same changes in the person closest to you. We tend to adapt the habits of those we love most, so setting a good example is a great way to start.
Don’t see this as a burden, but an opportunity for overall improvement as a cohesive and functioning family unit. It may not seem fair that everyone has to change, but it’ll be the bravest thing you are called to do, and the outcome isn’t disappointing.
Everyone should think about what they may do to self-medicate, even if it’s once in a blue moon, and relate to addicts accordingly. By putting ourselves in the shoes of loved ones, we can appreciate that they need to self-medicate more often at higher doses.
The first step is admitting you have a problem, then making your decision. Wanting lifelong sobriety is up to the addict, but achieving it takes a support network.
Myth #18: Drug addicts are lazy or lack the motivation to quit.
Drug addiction is a disease that changes the way your brain operates. For addicts, a drug is not a bad habit they can just walk away from — recovery frequently involves therapy, counseling and medical supervision.
Myth #19: Detox and rehab are the same thing.
Detox refers to the initial withdrawal period in which the chemical changes that your body has undergone as an addict begin to reverse. Rehab is a longer, more complex process that involves not just avoiding drugs or alcohol, but addressing the underlying emotional issues that cause you to use, as well as re-learning positive behaviors to take the place of your addiction.
Myth #20: Addiction is a moral failing.
Countless people experiment with drugs without becoming addicted. What differentiates an addict from someone who can simply try something once and walk away is partially the way their brains are wired — addiction has nothing to do with their personality or moral compass.
Myth #21: Prescription drugs are safe, and street drugs are not.
When a doctor prescribes painkillers, anti-anxiety medication or other powerful mood-altering drugs, he or she is doing so because, for a short time, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. All drugs have the potential for abuse, and in fact, over 45% of drug-related emergency room admissions are due to prescription drug abuse.
Myth #22: All 12 step programs have a religious component.
The 12 step model is flexible enough to accommodate people of all religious faiths. The important message is not so much submitting to God but realizing there are things we are powerless to control.
Myth #23: Drug rehab treatment has to be difficult.
Drug addiction isn’t a crime you need to be punished for. It’s a medical condition requiring clinical treatment that respects the comfort of the client. Drug rehab clinics are increasingly moving away from the isolation model that dominated the field for years — instead, treatment focuses on providing a comfortable, stress-free environment where an addict can do the difficult emotional work required to heal.
For more addiction resources, be sure to check out our help center. If you or your loved one are struggling with addiction, 12 Keys can help!