10 biggest myths about addiction?
There are many myths about addiction and treatment. This kind of misinformation gives birth to stigma. Stigma can come in the way of people seeking help and making things more difficult for them. If you know someone struggling with addiction, it’s important to know the right facts before trying to help them.
In this blog, we list down some of the most common myths that you might believe in and the alternative facts.
People with addiction can just choose to stop using if they really wanted to
If a loved one you know is suffering from addiction, you might feel like if they really cared about you then they would stop using. They do understand the effect their substance use has on their family and friends. But it is important to understand that addiction is not a choice; it is a chronic disease.
Addiction attacks the reward system by releasing excess feel-good chemicals in the brain. This can lead to uncontrollable cravings to use the substance again and again. This impairs one’s self-control and decision-making abilities. They will feel the urge to use it even if it causes negative consequences.
For ages, addiction has been seen in society as a moral problem. There are several factors including genetics, childhood, and trauma, that go into causing addiction.
Getting free from it is much more than just saying “no”. So, having an addiction would not make anyone weak or bad. Just like for diabetes or a heart problem, they need help.
People with addiction will only seek treatment if they hit rock bottom
Often people don’t seek treatment until the substance use has started to disrupt all areas of their life. But contrary to this belief, the fact is that the sooner you seek treatment, the higher chances you have of a faster recovery. Addiction does not just go away on its own, it increases in severity and damages various aspects of your life.
If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of addiction, you might feel like there is nothing you can do, but just wait for them to hit rock bottom and realise on their own. You can try to address what it is that is stopping them from getting treatment. It is crucial that you give them constant support and seek help as soon as possible.
For e.g., many people might be reluctant due to the stigma and shame attached, in this case, you can reassure them they are not being judged. They might believe that they will be locked down in a rehab facility, in this case, it would be good to speak to a professional and understand the truth about addiction treatment.
Only certain kinds of people get addictions
Media often shows people with addiction in a very negative light. It propagates the idea that only certain kinds of people might fall into addiction. It is true that they might get into illegal things like stealing money to buy drugs. But it is not because they are “bad people”, it is simply the addiction that makes them lose control over themselves.
We might believe that only certain kinds of people can get addicted. That is simply not true. Addiction does not discriminate. Anyone can get addicted, regardless of their race, caste, financial status or age.
If you try a drug once, you will get addicted
There are a few drugs like opioids which are given by doctors in some cases, for e.g. surgery. But not everyone who’s had exposure to this drug gets addicted. Some people might try or experiment with some drug recreationally, and still not have a substance abuse disorder.
Although it might make them vulnerable and increase the chances of addiction, it does not happen to everyone. Addiction happens when it is used as a coping mechanism to deal with real-life problems. They might be using it as an escape from their pain. This is why in treatment, it is important to work on the root cause of addiction.
Prescription drugs can’t be addictive because they are approved by doctors
Many drugs which are prescribed by doctors might be addictive in nature. They are effective in the treatment and will not cause harm if they are taken correctly. Very often these drugs are abused and not taken according to prescription. Prescription drug abuse is equally dangerous and can also be lethal in case of overdose.
If one relapses that means treatment does not work for them
People go to rehab with the expectation that all their problems will be solved and they will never abuse again. But relapse is not uncommon. Relapse is a part of recovery. It does not mean that their treatment failed. It could give you better direction in your recovery journey to understand what works well for you and what doesn’t.
It is important to get treatment again and continue on the journey. Like any other disease like hypertension or diabetes, it’s not uncommon to seek treatment multiple times.
People with a decent job or a functioning family can’t have an addiction
In most movies, when there is a character with addiction, they will show him as someone shabby, homeless, criminal who doesn’t work or have a family. This is just a stereotype. People often say things like “but he is doing so well in his career how can he have an addiction” or “they have such a loving functional family, it’s impossible that he is addicted”.
The truth is that many people who suffer from addiction might be very functional in some aspects of their lives. They might be smart enough to cover their addiction so that people don’t find out. Or they might themselves be in denial and believe that drugs aid them in their work, and aren’t really causing any harm. It is important to intervene if you see any signs of addiction and seek help.
Detox is enough for recovery from addiction
Detoxification is the process of removing all the harmful substances and toxins from your body. This can be a painful process and should be done under medical supervision. It is a very critical part of the recovery process. However, treatment only begins with detoxification.
Treatment for addiction is not affordable
When you think of rehab you might picture a luxurious setting that only rich people can afford. It is true that there are rehab centres which are very expensive. But rehab costs depend on several different factors.
You might eventually end up spending more on your addiction and on your health in the future as a consequence of it. So even if treatment is expensive, it is necessary and it is worth it. Most centres in India have a sliding scale where you can pay based on your budget. There are also a few rehab centres where you can even get treatment for free.
Alcohol addiction is not as bad as other drug addictions
Alcohol is legal in most parts of India. It is getting more and more common for young adults to engage in social drinking. This might give us the impression that it is not as harmful as other drugs. However, this is simply not true. Alcohol is one of the most harmful drugs.
It can deteriorate the person’s health tremendously. Once the body becomes dependent on alcohol, the withdrawal symptoms can range from headaches and tremors to seizures and even hallucinations. If you are showing unhealthy patterns of alcohol consumption, it is important to seek professional help as soon as possible.
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McHugh, R. K., Nielsen, S., & Weiss, R. D. (2015). Prescription drug abuse: from epidemiology to public policy. Journal of substance abuse treatment, 48(1), 1-7.
Svanberg, J. (2018). The psychology of addiction. Routledge.
Vengeliene, V., Bilbao, A., Molander, A., & Spanagel, R. (2008). Neuropharmacology of alcohol addiction. British journal of pharmacology, 154(2), 299-315.