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  • Writer's pictureMartin Polanco

7 Common Misconceptions About Addiction

Originally posted December 5, 2016

There are many misconceptions about addiction. Not only do these mistaken beliefs cause issues for the addict, but they can greatly impact society as well. Because these misconceptions can lead to a misunderstanding of what addiction really is, many addicts believe there’s little hope for recovery and maintaining a life of sobriety.

Addiction is truly something surrounded by myth and misunderstanding. Shattering the illusion about addiction, however, can lead to an increase in the amount of people who seek (and successfully complete) addiction recovery. The following are some of the most common fallacies about addiction:

1. Drug Addicts Fit a Certain Stereotype

The stereotypical drug addict is someone who most people assume fits the addict profile. Some of the biggest myths regarding the stereotype of a drug addict include:

  • Someone with a criminal history

  • A person that steals from friends and family

  • Someone of “lower” social standing

  • A person with no ambition

  • Someone who doesn’t have a job or is homeless

  • People that are “bad”

  • A person from a poor economic background

The stereotypical view of an addict must be shattered. There isn’t a “type” of person that becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol. Addiction can happen to anyone regardless of gender, age, race, and economic standing. Misconceptions about addiction can also make some people believe they don’t have a problem if they believe they don’t fit the stereotype.

2. Being an Addict Means You’ve Failed

Because of the certain stereotypes that have come to exemplify addiction, many people think that because they’re an addict, they’ve somehow failed at life. And while using a substance is undoubtedly a choice, becoming an addict isn’t something people usually choose. Substance abuse changes the way the brain functions, and repeated use of a substance makes it really hard to quit using.

There are also certain predispositions that can lead to one becoming an addict. One’s past plays a huge role in addiction, as do genetics and environmental influences. But because people viewed addiction as some kind of character flaw for so long, many addicts now see themselves as a failure rather than influenced by some external factor.

3. Addicts Can Quit Using Whenever They Want

If addiction was something that an addict could stop doing at any time they wanted, we wouldn’t have addicts. We wouldn’t be experiencing the opioid crisis we currently are, and we wouldn’t have the need for treatment options that work. A lot of people wonder why addicts don’t just stop using, and many believe they can quit whenever they’d like.

No one wants to live the life of an addict. Instead, it’s their body and mind that have become dependent on a substance to make them feel normal. Physical and psychological withdrawal are often extremely difficult to endure, and can keep someone trapped in an addicted state for years. Getting help with treatment is often the only way out, and those struggling with addiction may need support in finally making the decision to quit using.

4. Once Someone is an Addict, They’re Always an Addict

Just because someone was once addicted to drugs or alcohol, doesn’t mean they’ll be an addict for the rest of their life. Although relapse is a very real reality, there have been countless people who have successfully overcome addiction. The misconception that once someone’s an addict isn’t just wrong, but can predispose people to subconsciously believe that they’ll never overcome addiction. Addiction isn’t something that’s guaranteed to be something struggles with for the rest of their life, and is one of the most deluding misconceptions about addiction there is.

5. Prescription Medication Isn’t Addictive

To say that prescription medicine isn’t addictive is one of the greatest myths about addiction there is. Because they are legal and readily prescribed, many people believe they have no potential for abuse. The use of prescription opioids however, has become an epidemic, and there are over 15 million people in the US alone abusing these prescription medications. Not only do some prescriptions hold a high potential for addiction, but they can prove to be fatal as well.

Medical emergencies that have occurred due to prescription medication abuse increased 132% over the last seven years, with the rise in opiates being over 180%. Overdose rates are the highest we have ever seen, and the use of prescription medication continues to rise. The rapid rise of heroin abuse is directly related to prescription medication addiction as it provides the same effect, but at a fraction of the cost.

6. Alcohol Addiction Isn’t as Bad as Drug Addiction

Because alcohol use is socially acceptable (and even encouraged), and addiction to alcohol isn’t thought of to be as serious as addiction to drugs. Alcohol is legal, which leads people to assume that it’s not as bad as drug use. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.

Alcohol has the potential to ruin people’s lives and can become a truly dangerous addiction. Not only is it widely available, but can cause irreparable damage to addicts and their families. All addictions are dangerous, and alcohol can prove to be just as damaging as some of the worst cases of drug addiction.

7. There is Only One Method of Treatment

It’s commonly misunderstood that there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to treating addiction. 12-step programs and standardized inpatient or outpatient care, however, aren’t the only methods there are when it comes to treating addiction. Alternative approaches to addiction, such as ibogaine treatment and ayahuasca are becoming more common.

People respond to different types of treatment in different ways, and what works for one person doesn’t always work for the next. Understanding that there are alternatives (and exploring what works right for you or your addicted loved one) can make a monumental difference in successfully choosing the right addiction treatment.

Although there will always be misunderstanding about addiction and the many facets it entails, being informed of what’s true and what’s false can help someone better understand what it takes to truly overcome addiction for good.

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