Substance Abuse: Unveiling the Myths About Drug Addiction
By, Mayah Taylor, MA
Myths about drug addiction remain an issue among Americans today. In case you didn’t know September is National Recovery Month. It is important that we spend the time to educate ourselves on substance use treatment and mental health services. People need to know the impact they have on individuals in order to live a stable, supportive, healthy life. In honor of National Recovery Month, let’s go over some common myths about drug addiction to help us understand it better.
Myth #1: You Must Voluntarily Want Treatment for It to Be Successful
According to Donna White of Psychology Today, Treatment can be successful for persons who are self-motivated and who have external motivators pushing them towards treatment. White states that, “Sometimes the exposure to treatment allows an individual to become more aware of how problematic their substance use has become.”
Myth #2: You Must Hit “Rock-Bottom” for Treatment to Work
While it is easy to believe that this myth may be true, it really isn’t. Hitting “rock-bottom” does not set the tone or the terms of substance abuse treatment and when it may be time to start treatment. For one to begin their work in conquering their substance addiction, there first must be an acknowledgement that their abuse of the substance is a problem. This should be done either by the person or a third party, particularly in cases where the person is required to receive treatment.
A person does not have to lose everything, undergo the worst suffering, or hit their rock bottom to have success in treatment, let alone have the need for treatment. There are individuals that acknowledge or learn early on in their addiction journey that they need help. They feel things may be getting out of control or they may even want to prevent things from getting to the point they can’t control.
Myth # 3: People Can Stop Using Drugs if They Want To
A person may start as an occasional user that may be capable of picking and choosing when they use and when they do not use. However, once a person becomes addicted, their use of substances is better viewed as a compulsion. It is the irresistible urge to behave in a certain way. In this case, the irresistible urge to use the substance that the person has become addicted to. Substance addiction is so much more complicated than just quitting cold turkey or quitting because you really want to.
Once a person has become addicted to a substance, it becomes more than just willpower. Now, they are at a point where their brain chemistry had been altered from sustained use of the substance. “Addiction is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works.” according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
Myth #4: Substance Abuse Treatment Doesn’t Work
The brain is altered and affected significantly by substance abuse or addiction. So, it can be beneficial and successful to receive substance abuse treatment. Treatment not only addresses and focuses on the addiction itself, but also other behaviors or mental health struggles that can be contributing factors towards the addiction. Everyone’s journey is different and some treatment processes may take longer than others.
Myth # 5: Addicts Are Bad People
Labeling an addict as a bad person is one of the most common myths about drug addiction that I came across. People automatically assume that person is the scum of the earth or is more likely to steal from you, rob you, and can do some of the most deplorable things. Contrary to popular belief your average addict can be your next-door neighbor with the nice lawn that is friendly to everyone; they can be doctors, lawyers, soldiers, etc. They can even be your mom, husband, wife, sister, brother, children, father, cousin, or someone else in your family.
I think we tend to view addicts as someone that is less than human when in actuality, they couldn’t be more human than yourself. Addiction knows no boundaries. There isn’t a specific kind of person that is more likely to be an addict. Addiction can start as something so simple as your teenage child going into your medicine cabinet and taking the Vicodin that was prescribed to you for a procedure you just had. That child then became hooked on that substance to the point where it begins to interfere in their daily life. Meanwhile, you go to your medicine cabinet to take a Vicodin that you were prescribed, and you notice that the pill bottle is lighter each time you go to take your medicine.
Need more help on finding sobriety and healing? Read more here! Are you in recovery and need some extra support in conquering your addiction? We can help. Substance Abuse Support group is enrolling now. Click here for more details.
NIDA. (2016, October 1). Media Guide. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide on 2017, September 14
White, D. (2013). Breaking Down the Myths about Substance Abuse Treatment. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 14, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/07/06/breaking-down-the-myths-about-substance-abuse-treatment/