Dispelling Five Common Addiction Myths
By Christa A. Banister
With a topic as significant, far-reaching and complex as addiction, it’s particularly important to separate fact from fiction.
Whether it’s widely believed misconceptions that have proven inaccurate because of new research or falsehoods masquerading as reality on any number of websites by experts who haven’t been thoroughly vetted, it’s important for you and your loved ones to understand the realities and common myths about addiction.
Myth 1: People With Addictions Have a Specific Appearance and Are Easily Recognizable
If the recent opioid epidemic in the United States has taught us anything, it’s that people who struggle with addiction don’t fit any stereotypical mold.1 They can be bright, athletic teenagers who’ve recently graduated from legally prescribed pain medication to heroin. They’re suburban mothers popping pills and drinking too much wine to deal with stress. They’re college-educated and high school dropouts. They’re successful and poor, city-dwellers and country folks.
The best way to spot someone who is struggling with addiction is by knowing a person and his habits well and noting any significant changes including abrupt changes in weight, bloodshot eyes or constant lethargy. Maybe he’s not as reliable as he once was. Perhaps, she’s running with a new crowd or has a dramatic change in priorities or financial difficulties. These are far more reliable indicators than looking a certain way superficially.
Myth 2: Prescription Drugs Aren’t All That Addictive
It’s been widely believed that marijuana and alcohol are the primary gateways to something harder like, say, cocaine or meth. But these days, it’s the seemingly innocuous over-the-counter remedies like popular cough syrups or even medicine prescribed by your trusted physician — think OxyContin for injuries — that can be the entry point for addiction.2
Since these drugs are so readily available, children and teenagers have easy access and can be influenced by friends or television, they can begin experimenting to achieve the desired high. And once someone has grown accustomed to the pleasurable feelings associated with taking an opioid like Vicodin, it can increase the desire to use something cheaper, like heroin, as an alternative.
Myth #3: Individuals Who Have an Addiction Lack Willpower
If you could speak with someone who’s struggled mightily with any sort of addiction — drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping, you name it — he would probably want to shout it from the rooftops that willpower has very little to do with why it’s so challenging to “just quit already.”
Not only do neurological differences and genetic markers often escalate the possibility of addiction, but once someone begins to use drugs, that changes how the brain deals with impulse control.3 Recovery is a difficult and multifaceted effort that’s always better when people understand the root of the problem, as well as what it takes for healing to begin and continue.
Myth #4: Someone Must Hit “Rock Bottom” Before to Beat Addiction
It can be quite the opposite, actually. In fact, addiction recovery can begin at any stage. With the impact that alcohol and other substances have in reshaping the brain and its functions, as well as the adverse effects drug use can have on relationships, financial security and health, it’s always better to address the struggle sooner rather than later. While it’s certainly not impossible to treat someone who has hit bottom, it can actually more challenging, so earlier is better.
Myth #5: People Forced Into Treatment Won’t Succeed
Of course, it probably seems more productive for treatment to be something the person struggling with addiction proactively decides to do. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if the person struggling took the first step or if a trusted friend, spouse or coworker brought it up. The important part is that recovery has now become a priority. Someone struggling with drug or alcohol use may not even be aware to acknowledge the need for help, so thank goodness for people in their lives who care enough to suggest treatment.4
If you or a loved one struggle with addiction, you don’t have to be alone. Call someone who knows — and understands — exactly what you’re going through at Lakeside.
1 Helling, Steve and Rockey Fleming, Alexandra. “Faces of an Epidemic: Stories of the Victims of America’s Opioid Crisis — and the Fight to Save Lives.” People Magazine, April 9, 2017.
2 Weiss, Robert. “Debunking Myths About Addiction and Recovery.” Psychology Today, August 19, 2014.
3 Sack, Davis. “5 Myths About Addiction That Undermine Recovery.” Psychology Today, May 14, 2013.
4 “Myths About Drug Abuse and Addiction.” Indian Health Service, accessed April 10, 2018.
Lakeside Behavioral Health System
2911 Brunswick Road
Memphis, Tennessee 38133
901-377-4733 or 1-800-232-LAKE
2911 Brunswick Road
Memphis, Tennessee 38133