8 Addiction Myths That Can Sabotage Recovery

Addiction is complex and those who are dealing with it in recovery are brave and have the capacity for incredible growth and a life full of promise. Unfortunately, we live in a society that still promotes false stereotypes about addicts and even with generations of research, these myths are still very much alive. These are just some of the damaging myths out there – but, remember, the truth behind the lies is far more powerful. 

Only one type of addiction treatment works

As each person is different; treatment will look different for everyone. Treatment and follow-up options need to be individualized to each person’s needs. Just as someone may have one substance use disorder, another may have a co-occuring disorder and each person’s treatment plan will look different based on these factors. Some addiction recovery centers are faith-based, while others are non-denominational and this is important as everyone looks at their life, spirituality, and the tools they need to be successful in recovery very differently. There is no “one-stop-shop” or “one-single type” in terms of addiction recovery treatment.

Addiction is a sign of moral failure

Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding addiction has come with the idea that addicts lack morality and values – this is simply not true and unfounded. Truth is, even though there are factors that contribute to the likelihood of someone of developing an addiction, no one knows exactly what causes addiction. Addiction isn’t a moral issue.

You just need willpower to beat addiction

People don’t choose to become addicts and recovery isn’t about the amount of willpower someone possesses. According to Alan I. Leshner, Ph.D., the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “drug addiction is a brain disease. Every type of drug of abuse has its own individual mechanism for changing how the brain functions. But regardless of which drug a person is addicted to, many of the effects it has on the brain are similar: they range from changes in the molecules and cells that make up the brain, to mood changes, to changes in memory processes. And these changes have a huge influence on all aspects of a person’s behavior. The drug becomes the single most powerful motivator in a drug abuser’s existence. He or she will do almost anything for the drug. This comes about because drug use has changed the individual’s brain and its functioning in critical ways.”

All addicts are the same

We live in a society where many people try to paint an “Instagram -perfect” picture of their life. But drug and alcohol addiction can happen to anyone, even those who we perceive as being the wealthiest, most successful, and happiest in society. Yes, there are factors such as race, economic status, and education than can increase the risk of someone becoming an addict, but addiction can affect anyone.

Addiction treatment can be a one-time deal

Typically, drug addiction is a chronic disorder. Yes, some people can quit drug use after one stint in rehab. Some may be able to just stop, depending how long they have been using. But most of those who have a substance use disorder need longer-term treatment and, in many cases, repeated treatments.

Everyone who uses drugs is an addict

Not everyone who uses drugs or alcohol is an addict or will develop a substance use problem. However, more often than not, drug abuse leads to addiction. The definition of addiction is characterized by compulsive substance abuse despite the harmful consequences and outcomes. 

People with substance use disorders need to hit “rock bottom” before getting help

In terms of the possible consequences of addiction and the physiological impact it has on the body and brain, the earlier a person can get treatment, the better. However, recovery can begin at any stage in the addiction process and not only at “rock bottom.” Getting help early, rather than later is better as the stronger the addiction becomes and the harder it is to treat.

There’s a difference between those who get addicted to prescription drugs and people who get addicted to illegal drugs

Medications like Valium are prescribed by a doctor and reside in people’s medicine cabinets, but are they safer to use than street drugs? No. According to an article in the National Institutes of Health (NIH, 2014), “Non-medical use of prescription drugs (NMUPD) is increasing among the general population, particularly among teenagers and young adults. Although prescription drugs are considered safer than illicit street drugs, NMUPD can lead to detrimental consequences.” When a person takes a prescription medication in larger quantities, more often than intended, or for a condition they do not have, it poses the same risk of addiction.

Treatment for Addiction

Addiction is a complicated chronic brain disease and debunking the myths surrounding addiction can be the first step in understanding it. While there is no cure for addiction, it is treatable and there is hope in recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help today. Do not let the stigma of addiction and mental health prevent you from getting the help you need. Once you are in recovery from addiction or a substance use disorder, you can go on to live a healthy new lifestyle in sobriety.