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7 Common Myths About Addiction

4 minute read

There are a lot of myths about addiction. Some of these misbeliefs keep people from getting the help they need; others widen the rift between addicted people and loved ones. Still others perpetuate stigmas around addiction. Myths people believe about addiction sometimes include:

#1 Quitting Drugs Is a Matter of Willpower

Simply put, addiction hijacks the brain. Once you’re in active addiction, “just stopping” drugs or alcohol without treatment and drastic lifestyle changes is extremely difficult. Repeated substance abuse makes your brain think that having drugs and alcohol in your system is the new ‘normal.’ The brain and central nervous system start needing drugs or alcohol to function and produce the correct balances of chemicals.

Substance abuse rewires the brain so that it sends similar messages to you about drugs and alcohol that it does food, water, connection with others, and other survival instincts. It can feel nearly impossible to resist triggers when you’re getting such strong signals to use substances. Obtaining and using drugs begins to take priority over everything else when you’ve become dependent on drugs and alcohol.

#2 Addicts Must Hit Rock Bottom

This common myth about addiction can be deadly. If you or a loved one waits to hit rock bottom to get help, it could be too late. It’s true that you cannot force people into treatment or do the work for them, but if they’re showing warning signs of addiction, getting help sooner rather than later can be a life-or-death situation. You don’t need to hit rock bottom to overdose, cause irreversible physical and mental health damage, or put yourself or others in danger.

#3 Alcohol Addiction Is Better Than Drug Addiction

Because alcohol is legal, some people view alcohol addiction as less serious than drug addiction. This is simply not true. Alcohol is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in the United States. Alcohol contributes to several chronic conditions like:

  • Heart disease
  • Liver damage, disease, and cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Stroke
  • Mouth and throat cancer
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • High blood pressure

Binge drinking is also risky, accounting for almost 50% of deaths from excessive alcohol use. Furthermore, alcohol is responsible for impaired driving deaths. At least one American dies every 52 minutes from drunk driving.

Alcohol withdrawal is one of the most dangerous withdrawals from substances. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Delirium tremens
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Anxiety
  • High blood pressure

The fact is that any type of substance of abuse can be dangerous.

#4 Substance Abuse Isn’t Serious if You’re “Functioning”

You may think if you’re able to hold a job, go to school, or manage family responsibilities, you don’t have a serious problem. However, you can be struggling with addiction while living a rather ‘normal’ or productive life. You will remain ‘functioning’ until you cannot function anymore. It’s not uncommon for core parts of your life to begin

falling apart as drug or alcohol dependence and tolerance worsens. Furthermore, a functioning alcoholic or drug addicted individual is still at risk for the multitude of health problems linked to substance abuse.

#5 Relapse Means You’ll Never Get Better

Relapse can be frustrating and discouraging, but it’s not a failure. Addiction is a chronic disease with similar relapse rates as other chronic conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. It’s not uncommon to relapse at least once on your recovery journey. Relapses are opportunities to learn more about yourself, your triggers, and what is critical to maintaining sobriety. Many people come out of relapses stronger and more dedicated to their recovery.

#6 Drug Rehab Is a “Cure”

An addiction treatment program is a necessary part of recovery for many people, but it’s not a magic pill. People enter substance abuse treatment at varying stages of readiness to change. For some, an addiction recovery program is indeed the turning point they need to take back their life. They get sober, make lifestyle changes, and put recovery skills into practice that help them refrain from drugs and alcohol indefinitely. Others might need to participate in an addiction treatment program several times throughout their recovery journey. Either way, recovery is lifelong. It’s something you must always be aware of, work on, and nurture. Whether you’re in active addiction or haven’t had a drink or drug in decades, you’re never “cured” of addiction. Relapse is always a risk, but that risk can greatly diminish the longer you’re in recovery.

#7 Prescription Drugs Are Safer Than Street Drugs

Some people think that because a doctor prescribed a drug, it’s not “as bad” as street drugs like heroin, crack, or cocaine. The opioid crisis has helped dispute that myth about addiction. Around 247,000 people in the U.S. died from a prescription opioid overdose from 1999 to 2019. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that in a period of one year, 1.5 million Americans started misusing tranquilizers, 271,000 started misusing sedatives, and over one million started misusing prescription stimulants. The truth is addiction doesn’t discriminate by type of drug and any substance that you abuse can be dangerous and deadly.

Concerned About Yourself or a Loved One?

Drug and alcohol addiction are serious conditions that have long-lasting effects on your physical and mental health. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, reach out to us for a free, confidential consultation. We provide evidence-based substance abuse treatment that helps you understand addiction and the reasons you abuse drugs and alcohol, so those can be addressed. You’ll learn healthy coping skills and develop connections with peers in recovery who know what you’re going through.


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