Addiction is one of the most debilitating conditions that a person can experience. It can easily destroy one’s ability to keep a job, cause you to lose friends, and even erode a marriage. Addiction is also surrounded by many harmful myths about addiction and drugs, many of which are a result of misunderstandings.
Let’s take a look at everything you may have heard in the past regarding myths about addiction and the facts that you should know.
1. Addiction Is Voluntary
One of the most common (and harmful) myths about addiction is that it’s entirely voluntary. Some people may also believe that the only reason addicts continue to struggle is because they don’t have enough willpower to complete treatment.
Unfortunately, this is a highly inaccurate statement.
There are multiple factors that determine how someone is affected by addiction, and the choice to consistently abuse substances is rarely one of them. In fact, much of addiction stems from neurological causes.
The phrase ‘addictive personality’ is often thrown around when discussing substance abuse, but there’s truth to it— some people are genetically more inclined to become reliant on substances than others.
Over time, these individuals become even more reliant on certain substances and can easily sacrifice their possessions and relationships for their habits.
2. Only Bad People Are Addicts
When someone hears the term ‘addict,’ they often picture a criminal, homeless person, etc. The truth is, though, that many addicts are doctors, lawyers, and parents.
Interestingly, it’s not unlikely for most people to know at least one addict, even if they aren’t aware of their habits. This person could even be someone with a strong presence in their community, such as a mayor or sheriff.
This myth is perpetuated, though, by the fact that some addicts will commit crimes in order to fulfill their addiction. Although not all addicts are law-abiding citizens, this doesn’t mean that an entire population should be judged.
It’s not uncommon for people with a distorted perception of the world around them to act in ways they shouldn’t. It’s important to remember, however, that addiction is largely driven by neurological issues, meaning those with more developed issues aren’t able to think as they should.
3. The Best Treatment Is Punishment
This sentiment is fairly commonplace today, almost as much as it was in the 1980s when President Ronald Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. Since those who suffer from addiction are often viewed as criminals, the typical belief is that they should be punished like criminals.
Saddeningly, it’s a typical scenario for the average person to read or hear a story about a drug addict who overdosed and think ‘well, they did it to themselves.’ They also may hear of a drug addict getting a lengthy prison sentence for possession and think ‘good, they deserve it. They broke the law.’
Punishment, though, only makes the neurological issues worse. In many cases, those who find themselves deep in addiction can die from withdrawals if they’re taken into custody or are otherwise unable to access substances their body needs.
Proper treatment— and not excessive punishment— is the only way for an addict to fully recover. This is especially true when physical dependency is involved.
4. Addicts Only Use One Type of Substance
Many people are addicted to multiple types of drugs, a phenomenon that is known as polysubstance abuse.
For example, many individuals use different types of stimulants interchangeably, chasing the intense rush that they feel when doing so. Others are addicted to the effect that drugs have on their brain and use whatever is readily available.
In notably dangerous scenarios, some addicts may even combine multiple drugs in order to achieve a greater high.
Those who abuse multiple drugs are far more at risk than those who prefer one type of substance. Different drugs (especially ones that are obtained through prescription) may have negative effects on the body when they interact with each other.
Addicts often have no way of knowing which combinations are dangerous until it’s too late.
5. You Can Judge an Addict Based on What They Use
Since some drugs deliver a different or more intense high, those who use harder drugs are often judged more harshly. Similarly, people also tend to judge addicts based on how they consume the substances they use.
For instance, those who are addicted to powerful prescription drugs may be seen more favorably than someone who shoots heroin (ingesting pills vs. using a needle). Since using needles also carries the risk of transmitting blood diseases, this type of addict is often seen as ‘dirty’ or ‘lower-class.’
In reality, all addicts are the same in concept— they chase a particular feeling to satisfy their needs and use different substances to achieve it.
This issue is only exacerbated by the fact that most families don’t talk to their children about drugs and that most people don’t seek to educate themselves on the subject.
There are even people who refuse to acknowledge that alcohol is a drug and can be just as destructive as a substance like methamphetamines.
Understanding the Myths About Addiction Is Important
By knowing what is fact from fiction, you can better understand what you’re dealing with or what your loved one is going through.
With the above information regarding myths about addiction in mind, you’ll be well on your way toward having a better understanding of this issue that’s free of prejudice.
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