The myths of addiction create considerable problems for society. The biggest problem, of course, is the myth of addiction that it is a big monster and eats up everyone it comes into contact with.
This is not true.
It takes a number of simultaneously occurring circumstances to lead a person into drug abuse that can lead to addiction.
The other problem with our society’s myth of addiction is that it isn’t true. We are wasting a lot of time and resources to combat a creature that does not exist. We should be spending our time healing addiction instead of chasing a creature that is not real.
Here is a video on some of the myths of addiction.
In the video someone (the video provides no name) from Canadian Virtual Hospice describes addiction as a complex set of emotional, physiological, and environmental circumstances.
[This person is an Emergence theorist. I also think he is right. Breaking addiction down to its simplest component does not work. We have been treating people on the assumption that their bodies scream to get their drug of choice. This idea is not true. Their bodies scream to have their neurotransmitter levels manipulated. People addicted to heroin will frequently abuse other drugs when heroin is not available. ETOH (alcohol) should not diminish the heroin addicts need for heroin if the body is addicted only to heroin, but ETOH does. (Heroin use is a bad example but many of you have seen this substitution as it relates to marijuana and alcohol)]
Emergence theories are something I have always liked to explain addiction. I also really like neuroplasticity. Anyway, treating the whole problem usually results in better outcomes. For instance, how do we get a soldier suffering from PTSD to quit abusing drugs until we can get his anxiety under control.
The myths around addiction are pervasive. They are perpetuated by Hollywood, people who follow the disease model, and many others who just do not know any better.
I think it is important to note that the people who are pushing these myths of addiction are not having much success in helping people recover.
Myths of Addiction to Opioid Video
This video comes from the blog Opioid Blog.
More Myths of Addiction
These are just the most common myths of addiction. Each person has their own idea about addiction and how to handle it so there are as many myths of addiction as there are people. The myths of addiction below came from the websites cited at the bottom and my personal experience
If it’s a prescription, it must be safe;
you can’t get addicted to something your doctor prescribes. Although many medications are perfectly safe if taken in the prescribed dosage for a short period of time, prolonged use can be dangerous—and, yes, addictive. Some prescription drugs are especially hazardous if the user exceeds the prescribed dosage or takes a combination of drugs.
Recovery is Boring
Addicts will often justify their life with the idea that life in recovery is boring. They may even have experience of quitting their addiction for a few weeks or months where they had a bad experience. It is true that it can take a bit of time and effort to build a successful life away from addiction, but it is certainly achievable for anyone. Such a life is anything but boring – it is the life of the addict that is predictable and limited in opportunities. Once people find sobriety they can begin to achieve their dreams and this is highly satisfying and rewarding. Those who are established in recovery will usually look back on their addict days and wonder how they could ever have mistaken it for happiness.
“Natural” drugs are safer than synthetic ones.
Marijuana, mushrooms and other “natural” highs still alter brain chemistry and produce dangerous side effects. They aren’t harmless just because they grow in the ground.
The heroin era (or the crack crisis, the age of ecstasy, etc.) is over.
Drugs don’t just go away. Although certain drug trends become more popular and available and then seem to diminish in popularity over time, a drug doesn’t pose a lesser threat to you – or your kids – simply because it is associated with the culture of a previous decade.
If you have a high alcohol tolerance, you don’t have a drinking problem.
If you feel nothing after several drinks, you DO have a problem. A casual drinker wouldn’t be able to finish a couple of six-packs—and if they did, they’d feel very sick. If you’re drinking this much and feeling fine, you need help.
If you have a stable job and family life, you’re not addicted.
You may still have a job or career, a loving spouse and kids, and still have a drug or alcohol problem. Just ask any physician in recovery—many of them practiced for years without anyone recognizing their drug addiction. Holding down a job doesn’t mean you’re not addicted—it could mean that you have a tolerant spouse or boss, or you are in a career that puts up with excessive drug or alcohol use. Although you may still be treading water, you are risking everything, and rock bottom may not be far away.
Drug addiction is a choice.
Drug use is a choice, and prolonged use changes your body and brain chemistry. When that happens, the user no longer appears to have a choice—this is when use and misuse become addiction.
There is Only One Way to Escape Addiction
If there were only one way to escape addiction it would arguably make things easier, but this has not turned out to be the case. The current consensus in the recovery community is that the one size fits all approach needs to be abandoned. People are unique and will have their own needs. Some individuals will do well by joining a recovery fellowship and remaining within this group indefinitely. Other individuals seem to do better with therapy. There is no right answer. The important thing is that the individual finds what works for them. This means being willing to consider even those things that do not sound so attractive to begin with. For example, there have been many members of Narcotic Anonymous who were reluctant to begin with, but this turned out to be the best option for them. The best advice is for people to keep an open mind and not dismiss things out of hand.
Detox is all you need.
You aren’t addicted after you finish detox. They can just knock you out so you can detox while you sleep. Detox is difficult and it’s just the beginning. The new “ultra rapid detox” programs can be dangerous and even deadly. Finally, detox is the first step towards recovery, but addiction is a chronic illness—like diabetes, asthma or hypertension, it needs to be managed throughout the lifespan. There is no cure.
More than anything else, drug addiction is a character flaw.
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 in such motor skills as walking and talking. 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.
You have to want drug treatment for it to be effective.
Virtually no one wants drug treatment. Two of the primary reasons people seek drug treatment are because the court ordered them to do so, or because loved ones urged them to seek treatment. Many scientific studies have shown convincingly that those who enter drug treatment programs in which they face “high pressure” to confront and attempt to surmount their addiction do comparatively better in treatment, regardless of the reason they sought treatment in the first place.
If someone in recovery uses drugs or alcohol again, they’ll be right back where they were when they first quit.
This can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe that one drink will throw you back to “square one,” then it will. However, it is entirely possible to relapse, realize your mistake, and get right back in recovery.
People don’t need treatment. They can stop using drugs if they really want to.
It is extremely difficult for people addicted to drugs to achieve and maintain long-term abstinence. Research shows long-term drug use actually changes a person’s brain function, causing them to crave the drug even more, making it increasingly difficult for the person to quit. Especially for adolescents, intervening and stopping substance abuse early is important, as children become addicted to drugs much faster than adults and risk greater physical, mental and psychological harm from illicit drug use.
You need to be religious in order to get sober.
Sobriety doesn’t require you to believe in God or subscribe to any organized religion. It helps, however, if you believe in humanity, family, community, and the good aspects of yourself—beliefs that are greater and stronger than your own daily life with drugs.
There should be a standard treatment program for everyone.
One treatment method is not necessarily appropriate for everyone. The best programs develop an individual treatment plan based on a thorough assessment of the individual’s problems. These plans may combine a variety of methods tailored to address each person’s specific needs and may include behavioral therapy (such as counseling, cognitive therapy or psychotherapy), medications, or a combination. Referrals to other medical, psychological and social services may also be crucial components of treatment for many people. Furthermore, treatment for teens varies depending on the child’s age, maturity and family/peer environment, and relies more heavily than adult treatment on family involvement during the recovery process. “[They] must be approached differently than adults because of their unique developmental issues, differences in their values and belief systems, and environmental considerations (e.g., strong peer influences).”
If you’ve tried one doctor or treatment program, you’ve tried them all.
Not every doctor or program may be the right fit for someone seeking treatment. For many, finding an approach that is personally effective for treating their addiction can mean trying out several different doctors and/or treatment centers before a perfect “match” is found between patient and program.
Addicts are bad people.
Addicts aren’t “bad” people trying to get “good,” they’re sick people trying to get well. They don’t belong to a particular race or exist only in certain parts of the country. They are lawyers, farmers, soldiers, mothers and grandfathers who struggle with drug dependence on a daily basis. They are proof that addiction doesn’t discriminate—but, thankfully, neither does recovery.
Drug Addicts Fit a Stereotype
The stereotypical drug addict is somebody who:
* Spends a great deal of time in alleyways in the bad side of town.
* Have legal problems and a criminal history.
* Steal from family and friends.
* An individual who wears dirty unkempt clothing and doesn’t invest much time into personal hygiene.
* They move from low paid job to low paid job or are more likely unemployable.
* Estranged from their family.
* Sad people who have nothing good in their life.
* Drug users are stereotypically under 40 years of age.
* Junkies have no ambition in life.
* They are usually homeless and live in derelict buildings with other junkies.
* They are unable to maintain a healthy romantic relationship.
* They are usually looked upon as a lowlife in their community.
The reality of drug users can differ greatly from the stereotype. Many substance abusers have a well maintained addiction. These are often individuals who:
* Never visit back alleyways in the seedier parts of town. The person supplying them with drugs may even be wearing a suit and working in an office.
* Have never had any legal problems or be on the police radar.
* Most addicts have never needed to steal money from family and friends.
* They may wear expensive clothing and be perfectly groomed.
* They may have a successful career and by highly respected by their peers.
* Many addicts are loved and cherished by their family and friends.
* They can appear at least outwardly happy and be extremely positive about the future.
* Drug addicts can be of any age. There are an increasing number of elderly people who are abusing drugs – it has even been referred to as a hidden epidemic.
* These individuals can be highly ambitions and driven people.
* They may live in a big expensive house.
* They can have a loving partner
* Many addicts are highly respected in their community. Most of the people who know them would not even guess that they had even tried recreational drugs.
The stereotypical image of the drug addict can have negative implications. It makes it easier for people to hide their substance abuse problems. They can kid themselves that so long as they do not fit the stereotype they do not really have a problem.
Drug addiction is voluntary behavior.
A person starts out as an occasional drug user, and that is a voluntary decision. But as times passes, something happens, and that person goes from being a voluntary drug user to being a compulsive drug user. Why? Because over time, continued use of addictive drugs changes your brain — at times in dramatic, toxic ways, at others in more subtle ways, but virtually always in ways that result in compulsive and even uncontrollable drug use.
Treatment for drug addiction should be a one-shot deal.
Like many other illnesses, drug addiction typically is a chronic disorder. To be sure, some people can quit drug use “cold turkey,” or they can quit after receiving treatment just one time at a rehabilitation facility. But most of those who abuse drugs require longer-term treatment and, in many instances, repeated treatments.
We should strive to find a “magic bullet” to treat all forms of drug abuse.
There is no “one size fits all” form of drug treatment, much less a magic bullet that suddenly will cure addiction. Different people have different drug abuse-related problems. And they respond very differently to similar forms of treatment, even when they’re abusing the same drug. As a result, drug addicts need an array of treatments and services tailored to address their unique needs.
Treatment just doesn’t work.
Treatment can help people. Studies show drug treatment reduces drug use by 40 to 60 percent and can significantly decrease criminal activity during and after treatment. There is also evidence that drug addiction treatment reduces the risk of HIV infection (intravenous -drug users who enter and stay in treatment are up to six times less likely to become infected with HIV than other users) and improves the prospects for employment, with gains of up to 40 percent after treatment.
Nobody will voluntarily seek treatment until they hit ‘rock bottom.’
There are many things that can motivate a person to enter and complete substance abuse treatment before they hit “rock bottom.” Pressure from family members and employers, as well as personal recognition that they have a problem, can be powerful motivating factors for individuals to seek treatment. For teens, parents and school administrators are often driving forces in getting them into treatment once problems at home or in school develop but before situations become dire. Seventeen percent of adolescents entering treatment in 1999 were self- or individual referrals, while 11 percent were referred through schools.
You can’t force someone into treatment.
Treatment does not have to be voluntary. People coerced into treatment by the legal system can be just as successful as those who enter treatment voluntarily. Sometimes they do better, as they are more likely to remain in treatment longer and to complete the program. In 1999, over half of adolescents admitted into treatment were directed to do so by the criminal justice system.
People can successfully finish drug abuse treatment in a couple of weeks if they’re truly motivated.
Research indicates a minimum of 90 days of treatment for residential and outpatient drug-free programs, and 21 days for short-term inpatient programs to have an effect. To maintain the treatment effect, follow up supervision and support are essential. In all recovery programs the best predictor of success is the length of treatment. Patients who remain at least a year are more than twice as likely to remain drug free, and a recent study showed adolescents who met or exceeded the minimum treatment time were over one and a half times more likely to abstain from drug and alcohol use. However, completing a treatment program is merely the first step in the struggle for recovery that can extend throughout a person’s entire lifetime.
People who continue to abuse drugs after treatment are hopeless.
Drug addiction is a chronic disorder; occasional relapse does not mean failure. Psychological stress from work or family problems, social cues (i.e. meeting individuals from one’s drug-using past), or their environment (i.e. encountering streets, objects, or even smells associated with drug use) can easily trigger a relapse. Addicts are most vulnerable to drug use during the few months immediately following their release from treatment. Children are especially at risk for relapse when forced to return to family and environmental situations that initially led them to abuse substances. Recovery is a long process and frequently requires multiple treatment attempts before complete and consistent sobriety can be achieved.
All these myths of addiction were sourced from:
Home: Living With An Alcoholic