How hard have you worked to get where you are at in your recovery? If you have some considerable clean time that you can hang your hat on you have worked bloody hard to get where you are right now, and you will continue to put in your work. If you look at your recovery as it is in this moment, what words come to mind? More than likely the words courage, honesty, and insight are often the first that travel from the brain to your lips.
As we all know, all the good that we experience in our sobriety often comes with those things that aren’t so good. For example, we have to be constantly vigilant in our awareness of cravings and what can trigger them in our day-to-day lives. We also need to be acutely aware of the attitudes and behaviors that can lead us down the road to relapse. These obstacles often prove to be frustrating in our respective recovery journeys–but no obstacle can be more aggravating than the continuing stigma of addiction.
Despite the advances in scientific knowledge and the continued shift in thinking of the disease of addiction in more humane terms, long-held views about addiction and addicts still have its nails dug deep in the skin of society. While the stigma surrounding addiction is slowly lifting, there are still myths that surround addiction and recovery as a whole. Unless these myths about addiction are address and debunked, we in the recovery community will continue to face a large uphill battle in addiction to the personal wars we wage against addiction on a daily basis.
The following are five myths about addiction that need to stop right now.
5 Common Myths About Addiction
Addicts are Bad People
Even though we understand that addiction is a complex disorder that has social, environment and biological components, there are many who still feel that addiction is a moral and spiritual failing and that people who are addicts are weak-willed and immoral beings. It is true–we have done some reprehensible and unconscionable during our days of drinking and drugging. The changes in brain chemistry and the reinforcement of use in certain sets and setting transformed us into beings who didn’t think twice about lying, cheating or manipulating others to get what we wanted.
However, it is important to realize that addiction affects everyone, and that really good people have done really bad things while under the influence. With the proper treatment and care, you have regained your physical, psychological and spiritual health and you are working everyday to make amends, make things right and become an even better person then you were before substance abuse took over your life.
Addiction is a Choice
How many of you woke up one morning, looked yourself in the mirror, and said y’know, I really want to be an addict?
It is a silly question to ask because nobody asks themselves that question, yet one of the prevailing myths of addiction that still floats some people’s boats is that addiction is a choice and a matter of willpower. With increased and more specialized research, we know understand that addiction is a complex disorder of the brain. With chronic use of substances, brain chemistry and function is significantly impacted and with those changes a person’s behaviors and actions change.
As stated earlier, drug and alcohol addiction is a complex beast that is birthed in the perfect storm of neurobiological, environmental and social factors. It’s true that addicts can exert their willpower to stop taking substances, but merely plugging the jug won’t make addiction go away. If the underlying factors that allow addictive behavior to flourish aren’t addressed, any sobriety that is attained will be short-lived.
People Can Only Be Addicted to One Substance
Another one of the common myths about addiction is that people become addicted to one substance. While people may have their own preferred drug of choice, the fact of the matter is that many people who struggle with addiction are often addicted to multiple substances at the same time. This is known as polysubstance abuse, and it is not uncommon for people to be addicted to three or more types of substances. Addicts often abuse multiple substances in order to create a more intense high or to counterbalance the effects of each specific drug. If people engage in polydrug abuse, it becomes much harder to treat.
Legal Drugs are Different
There are people who are of the thought that legal drugs such as anti-anxiety and prescription painkiller medications are different than illicit drugs when it pertains to substance abuse. Prescribed drugs seem to have less of a stigma attached to them, and there are many who think these drugs are “safer” than street drugs.
If you look at the prescription painkiller epidemic that is currently engulfing the country, you know this line of reasoning is both false and dangerous. Legal medications are often abused as much as their illicit counterparts, and they are often more potent. Misuse of these drugs affect the same brain regions as illegal drugs and have a high addiction potential.
Treatment Will Put Addicts in Their Place
It has taken decades for healthcare professionals and others in the addiction treatment communities to understand that addiction is a progressive and complex disease of the brain. Despite this shift in thinking, there are people who believe that addiction treatment should “put addicts in their place”. For those who look at addiction treatment in this light, they believe that addicts should be made to feel ashamed of their condition.
Whether this opinion is formed by personal experiences or deep-seated stigma, this attitude towards addicts helps perpetuate stigma and can make those who struggling with addiction feel they aren’t worthy of help. In fact, research has shown that shame is one of the leading indicators that a person will relapse. The truth is there is no “right” way to recover; every addict has their own unique and specific needs in treatment. Many drug treatment centers offer a wide range of evidence-based treatment services in well-equipped facilities that are inviting, safe and conducive for recovery.
The myths about addiction not only affect the addict and their families, it also affects society as a whole. If we are able to understand addiction as a brain disease and allow people to recover in ways that best suit their needs, we all can make significant strides in addressing drug and alcohol addiction.