Although addiction is treatable, many people put off getting the help they need because of societal misconceptions about it. Replacing stigma with information is a crucial first step toward improving the lives of the close to 20 million Americans who have struggled with substance abuse in the past year.
Myth #1: Addiction Is a Moral Issue
Addicts are often portrayed as heartless criminals in popular culture—losers who choose to throw their lives away on drugs because they have no morals or goals in life. While drug use may start with some poor decisions, people do not set out to become addicted.
The causes of addiction are much more complex than “being a bad person.” The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reports that genetics account for 50-75 percent of the risk, with a number of other factors contributing to the development of addiction:
- Exposure to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
- Exposure to trauma
- Substance abuse in the family or within peer social groups
- Drug use that begins at an early age
- Mental health struggles
- Certain personality traits and brain characteristics
Myth #2: Addicts Just Lack Willpower
By definition, addiction is something that takes over one’s ability to make the choices and live the life they want. People addicted to drugs or alcohol experience changes in their brains that cause extreme cravings, and these can feel almost impossible to resist. Just as a cancer patient can’t recover with sheer willpower alone, the addict and their loved ones must face the physical reality of what they are dealing with.
Myth #3: Prescription Drugs Are Safer than Illicit Drugs
A bottle that comes from a pharmacist may look more innocent than a baggie of illicit drugs, but it can be just as dangerous. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency about opioid misuse, citing that 2.1 million Americans had an opioid use disorder and 47,600 died from an opioid overdose. Prescription drugs are second to marijuana as the most commonly abused substance.
Myth #4: Nothing Can Really Help Addiction
Addicts and their loved ones can feel discouraged when relapses occur, citing the failure of treatment and rehab programs to effect any real change. They may want to give up, believing “once an addict, always an addict.”
While addiction cannot be completely cured—this is why even long-sober people say they are “in recovery”—it can be treated effectively. Not everyone is successful in their first attempt, and some people may need to try a variety of strategies and approaches in order to achieve long-term sobriety. It’s important to keep working toward recovery, even if there are obstacles along the way.
When you (or a loved one) find yourself facing challenges with substance abuse, remember that you’re never alone. Ashland County has many resources available to help. On our site, we share options for where to get help and lots of information about the caring hands that are working together to bring healing to people in our community.
Read about the Origins of Addiction Evidence From the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study here.