When it comes to addiction, everyone has their own understanding of the affliction based on their upbringing and what content they have absorbed throughout their lives. However, it is hard for anyone to understand what addiction is unless they have lived through it, as it is a very personal experience. The scope of damage that addiction can cause and its toll on the individual or their families can not be imagined until it knocks at your front door.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation regarding addiction on the internet, and it is essential to discuss these deceptive points. Some of the myths, lies, and misconceptions we will be going over are sadly common reasons why individuals chose not to get help or why their families are unwilling to help them. We want to spread the truth about addiction and create a guide that enables you to separate the untrue from what you commonly hear.
MYTH 1: “Substance abuse and addiction are the same things.”
While frequently people do use “abuse” and “addiction” interchangeably, they are not the same term at all. We need to dive into what each of those means and what makes them different. Substance abuse refers explicitly to when an individual is using alcohol or drugs in an unhealthy way. When we talk about substance abuse disorder, we are talking about individuals who continually struggle with the substances in their life and have developed an unhealthy relationship with the substance.
This significantly differs from addiction; addiction describes an individual who has developed a physical, chemical, and psychological dependency on a specific substance. Think of addiction as a bodily experience where you do not feel as though you have a choice. This versus abuse, where you may have more of an option to choose substances over other possibilities, where you do not need the substance to feel “normal.”
Those who engage in abuse without addiction may still experience positive feelings from the substances instead of primarily feeling its necessity. Conversely, those who have developed a more crippling addiction have built a tolerance and are dependent on the substance to avoid the withdrawals they’re all too familiar with.
MYTH 2: “Addiction is just a habit and happens to people who are morally weak or don’t know how not to overindulge. It is a choice to get addicted.”
It is not surprising if you have heard this before because this is, unfortunately, a common myth. We want to be very clear that addiction is not a choice; no one would outright choose to risk their life by starting a journey down the path of addiction. This myth is a hazardous statement to tell someone struggling with addiction as it may create so much self-blame and hatred they instead choose to struggle alone silently.
Addition can be just as life-threatening and long-term as other adult diseases like diabetes. Addiction can be rooted in genetic susceptibility to social pressures to personality and behavior traits and even your upbringing. All these factors may make addictive tendencies more common, and the more they stack up against you, the less agency you truly have.
Addiction is NOT a choice. We must embrace those dealing with addiction with open arms and ensure they understand this is not their fault, and things can get better. Many who struggle with addiction don’t typically live a high quality of life and often lack the skills and resources to take care of themselves. No one would choose to live that way if given a choice. For those with addiction, they have run out of choices.
MYTH 3: “Everyone has willpower, and if you want to stop being addicted or abusing drugs, you can do it. It’s that easy.”
Those struggling with addiction to drugs and alcohol can not just choose to stop using substances. As mentioned before, once addicted, your body develops a physical, chemical, and psychological dependency on the specific substance, which no amount of sheer willpower can change overnight. No matter their intent or inner strength, the effects of withdrawal will not be kind, especially now that their bodies have grown to function with these substances in them.
Repeated use can also alter the individual’s brain, making it much harder to rewire. Most addicted individuals will need to seek specific detoxification services and a treatment plan to end their dependency on the substances.
MYTH 4: “Addiction won’t happen to me. Addiction affects the vulnerable, lower socioeconomic populations.”
Do not mishear us when we say; Addiction can affect ANYONE. Addiction does not discriminate between age, income, race, ethnicity, religion, career, home life, etc. About 1 in 8 people ages 12 and up are impacted by addiction in the US. That means from the most affluent neighborhoods in the world to poverty-stricken areas, we are all equally affected when it comes to substance abuse and addiction.
MYTH 5: “If someone has a normal life and family, they don’t have addiction issues.”
As just discussed, addiction does not discriminate, and even some of the most put-together individuals are struggling with substance abuse and addiction. These people may be living in denial and feel that because they can hold down everyday responsibilities, they must be ok, but the reality is that addiction is just as likely to be present.
The stigma of addiction is often seen as weak and self-indulgent. Some may keep it private and within the family, but more individuals than you would guess are affected by addiction. These individuals are seen as “functional addicts” as they can continue to lead a semi-normal life while enduring addiction. These individuals need to know that help is here for them too.
MYTH 6: “It takes hitting ‘rock bottom’ to get over addiction finally.”
This myth is a hazardous statement to make as letting someone reach “rock bottom” allows their addiction to take over the driver’s seat completely. We want to encourage individuals to seek help before hitting “rock bottom,” so they never need to know how “rock bottom” feels.
The longer people wait to get help, the sicker they become, making it harder to come out from it. If you can get help sooner, you may still have support from family and friends, which is often one of the consequences of “rock bottom.”
MYTH 7: “You can’t get addicted to prescription medicine cause it came from the doctor, and they know what is best.”
Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more common to see individuals addicted to prescription medications. Painkillers, sedatives, stimulants are all things that doctors may prescribe to you for a good reason but may turn to be a bad match for your body. These medications are highly addictive and even say so on the bottle, so it is important to use them only if completely necessary.
When physicians prescribe these medications, it is for immediate relief, but there is no telling how your body will react to these new chemicals. For some with genetic susceptibility, this can be extremely dangerous and cause a quick dependency.
MYTH 8: “People continue to relapse, so obviously, treatment doesn’t work forever.”
Relapse is quite normal for those going through recovery. Even the best treatment centers cannot cure addiction overnight, and neither will the temptations immediately subside. Many individuals will relapse a couple of times but still make their way into sobriety. It is near impossible to have a perfect recovery process with no mistakes. Support systems need to continue supporting the individual and guiding them towards recovery again.
Addiction is a one-step at a time process, and those around others who struggle with addiction should stay educated and informed on these facts and myths to help better support the individual in your life. We hope that these allow you to educate others on why addiction can be such an emotional, physical, and psychological process and will take time to do successfully.
At The Haven, we pride ourselves on helping to turn back the stigma of addiction and focus on the individual going through this painful process. We have programs and life skills to help equip them with what they need to find sobriety, even in today’s world.