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Nine Things You are Getting Wrong About Addiction

Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Addiction, medically known as substance use disorder, is a chronic relapsing disorder that is characterized by the inability to quit or reduce substance misuse despite the direct negative consequences the substance has on the individual’s daily life.

Substance use disorders affect individuals’ relationships, profession, financial status, physical health, and mental health. Some of us try to be understanding and empathetic when it comes time to the throes of addiction. However, many of us in today’s society are still stuck in the past of stigma, misunderstanding, and incorrect outdated assumptions and stereotypes. As a result, addiction remains one of the most misunderstood medical issues despite nearly 21 million Americans suffering from addiction in the United States.
Myth #1
If you have a career and family, you cannot suffer from an addiction

Often the false misconception and stereotype surrounding addiction is a homeless or unemployed individual. Although homelessness and financial strain can potentially trigger misuse of alcohol and drugs, this problematic stereotype is false, as many individuals with careers and families struggle with a substance use disorder. High-achieving, wealthy individuals in white-collar careers experience substance use disorders at high rates. Substance misuse often begins in college or graduate school. It continues to be problematic when these individuals enter into a competitive and stressful workforce, putting in long hours away from their families. Hostile work environments, marital discord, and stressful careers are risk factors for alcohol and drug misuse.
Myth #2
Addiction is a poor choice that individuals make

Trying a drug for the first time or misusing a drug for the first few times is a voluntary choice, but after a short period, the brain begins to re-wire itself, so it becomes used to that drug, resulting in impulsive and uncontrolled drug use. When an individual develops an addiction, the brain has far outpowered the individual’s voluntary choice to use or cut down on the drug. As a result, quitting an addiction is nearly impossible without help from trained addiction professionals.
Myth #3
Addiction refers to drugs and alcohol

Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain.In other words, addiction is a disorder, and “what” the individual is addicted to can range from drugs, alcohol, and food to behaviors such as gambling and sex.
Myth #4
You should seek treatment once you hit rock bottom

Research states that treatment outcomes are best when individuals seek treatment as soon as they are willing and ready. This means that treatment can be in the early stages of addiction or begin in the later stages of addiction, but forcing an individual to begin treatment when they are not ready or willing may not be the solution for the best treatment outcomes. With that said, there are specific guidelines and laws where individuals must be admitted into an addiction treatment program for 24 or 72 hours if they are deemed a risk to their own or others’ safety. The goal of these “forced treatments” is to stabilize the individual and make sure they are no longer at risk of causing harm to themselves or others.
Myth #5
Misusing prescription medications is less dangerous than misusing illicit substances

Addiction to prescription medications, specifically benzodiazepines, and opioid painkillers, is hazardous and common. Addiction to prescription pills can be more difficult to understand since these were given to an individual by a doctor and therefore “should be safe”, another untrue myth. Just because a doctor writes a prescription does not mean it can come with side effects. Illicit drugs can have the same potential for addiction as many other “legal substances.” For example, alcohol can be purchased nearly everywhere in some states and is considered one of the most highly misused substances in the United States.
Myth #6
Only certain types of people can become addicted to drugs and alcohol

Addiction does not discriminate between gender, class, ethnicity, or race. Although genetics can play a role in developing an addiction, specifically between 1st-degree relatives, anyone can be at risk of developing an addiction.
Myth #7
Once you receive treatment, you are cured of your addiction

Addiction is a life-long disorder, meaning that relapse is a risk regardless of where you are on your recovery journey. As a result, many treatment programs highly recommend an “aftercare” program that often encompasses outpatient therapy, community support groups, and networking events with other individuals in recovery. Treatment can help you overcome your addiction, but past triggers can potentially present themselves down the road. Without healthy coping mechanisms, these triggers can lead to relapse. Therefore many addiction professionals believe that addiction treatment is a lifelong journey.
Myth #8
Relapse is a sign of failure

Many treatment centers state that relapse is part of the journey and is a normal part of addiction, and although this is not precisely true, relapse is not a sign of failure. Relapse often occurs when an individual is faced with past triggers that fueled their addiction. Instead of practicing healthy coping skills, the individual may give into a trigger, especially during a time of stress. Relapse is often a sign that your treatment regimen may need to be adjusted. You may need to develop more robust coping mechanisms or therapy to further work past these past triggers.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, “Relapse rates for addiction resemble those of other chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma.” Statistics indicate that anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of individuals with addiction will experience a relapse.
Myth #9
You would know if someone close to you is battling an addiction

Many individuals are very good at hiding their addiction and will often go to extreme lengths to hide any signs of drug or alcohol misuse. They may only use drugs or alcohol in secrecy and have cover-up stories and excuses for odd behaviors or warning signs. This is especially true if the individual is deemed “high-functioning,” such as having a powerful career or a loving family. Many people will assume because this individual is high-functioning, there is no way they can be battling an addiction.

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