A myth is a false belief or idea about something, and unfortunately, they are pervasive when dealing with addiction. Myths are damaging to those suffering from addiction, their families, and society in general. It is essential to understand that addiction is a disease and to treat it as such. When given a chance, recovery from addiction is achievable, and many people end up changing their lives, being successful, and contributing to society in many positive ways. Since the ever-present possibility of relapse is something they will have to deal with despite these successes, certain myths affect sufferers of addiction to drugs or alcohol, which negatively impact recovery. These myths need to be addressed and understood as they are: false beliefs and ideas that stigmatize sufferers of addiction and negatively impact views of treatment and recovery.
The Five Myths
- Myth: Addiction is a choice. Addiction starts as a voluntary decision when someone occasionally drinks or uses drugs. However, it begins to change over time as the continued substance use changes the brain, and results in an uncontrollable and compulsive use. Furthermore, over half of the risk of developing an addiction is related to genetics, while the other half is related to family and home life, social influences, and environmental factors. There are also differences in brain structure and function for each individual, and brain imaging studies have found that these differences highlight the causes and effects of addiction. These studies explain why some people develop addictions while others do not. Therefore, addiction is not a choice. It is a chronic disease.
- Myth: Addiction is a character flaw that only affects bad people. Since addiction is a disease born from the brain, it affects behavior, memory, and motor skills. The drugs or alcohol abused become the main aspect of the addict’s existence, which occurs because the substance has changed the brain structure and function in critical ways. They may lie, cheat, or steal to maintain the habit, due to the chemical changes in their brain and subsequently altered behaviors. Addiction does not discriminate and therefore permeates our society. Men and women, young and old, from all walks of life, are at risk of becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. Even good people can do bad things, so the myth that addiction only affects bad people is precisely that: a false belief.
- Myth: Those suffering from addiction must want treatment for it to be successful. Practically no one wants treatment for their addiction. Most often, people seeking treatment are led to do so because of the persistence of family members, or due to a court order. However, many studies show that those who enter treatment while facing high pressure to do so do better in treatment than their counterparts. Therefore, wanting treatment does not equate to successful outcomes and recovery. It is simply a myth, and studies prove it to be false.
- Myth: Treatment should work the first time. Addiction is a chronic illness, in which relapse is a constant factor in recovery. Relapse does not equal failure, and therefore multiple treatments may be required. Some people can indeed quit drugs or alcohol “cold turkey,” or maintain recovery after only one time at a rehabilitation facility. However, addiction is chronic, which means constant. Recovery is a life-long process that varies for each individual. There is no right way to recover, as everyone’s path to recovery will be different, just as everyone’s life experiences are varied. Therefore, treatment is not guaranteed to work the first time around for everyone. It is a personal, dynamic, and unpredictable path to recovery from addiction.
- Myth: We Should find a “one size fits all” for treatment for addiction. There is no single treatment that will cure addiction immediately. Different people have different addictions, developed in varying ways, and usually co-occur, with psychological issues and other substances. People also respond differently to treatment, even when they are seeking treatment for the same abused substance. Polysubstance abuse, or the use of multiple substances, is the norm nowadays. Therefore, drug interactions are common, and the effects on the brain are more substantial. It is hard to treat substance abuse, particularly when multiple substances are involved. An array of treatments and services tailored to the individual’s unique needs are necessary for treating addiction and obtaining a life-long recovery.
Addiction to drugs or alcohol is a multi-faceted, individualized chronic disease. Until society and the media accept this fact, these disruptive and harmful myths will continue to persist. Unfortunately, their effect on recovery is detrimental, and may even dissuade an individual from entering or believing in treatment and recovery from addiction. Treatment for addiction is ever-changing, especially with studies such as this highlighting the negative effects of stigmatization on addiction recovery.
Myths about addiction cast a negative light over treatment and recovery. Recovery from an addiction to drugs or alcohol is a personal and dynamic journey. Therefore, no two journeys are the same, and neither are their treatments. At Fort Worth Recovery, we understand that recovery from an addiction to drugs or alcohol is a personal and challenging road to travel. We seek to inspire clients to face their challenges, accept their present state, and foster hope for their future. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, call us today at 817-381-9741, or visit us online.