The topic of addiction is surrounded by confusion, myths and taboo — when it has not personally affected you or someone close to you, it can be difficult to understand exactly how addiction happens, what causes it and how it affects a person’s life. For this reason, it’s important to address the myths about addiction. Taking time to address the misconceptions raises awareness, reduces the stigma that prevents many from seeking treatment and provides education on a convoluted topic.
Common addiction myths
There are a number of myths surrounding addiction, but we wanted to address the top four myths commonly heard in casual discussion.
Myth #1: People with substance abuse problems can stop whenever they want
Fact: Addiction is a disease that needs treatment for recovery.
Many people believe that stopping substance abuse is simply a matter of willpower. If a person sets out to stop drinking or taking drugs, a desire to do so should be enough, right?
Unfortunately, due to the brain changes that happen as a result of substance abuse, professional addiction treatment is almost always needed for the person to begin recovery. The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as a chronic and progressive condition that causes changes in the brain, driving a person to compulsively seek and use substances. Therefore, in order to correct these processes, treatment is most often needed in order to stop using substances.
Myth #2: If it’s a prescription drug, it’s not addictive
Fact: Addiction to prescription drugs happens often.
Some people believe that if a doctor prescribes a medication, it is completely safe and cannot be addictive. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Many prescription drugs have a high potential for abuse and addiction, especially medications like opioid painkillers, benzodiazepines, sleeping pills, barbiturates and stimulants.
Because of the accessibility of prescription drugs, they have become one of the most commonly abused substances in the United States, with studies saying that “52 million or 18.4 percent of Americans over the age of 12 have deliberately misused prescription drugs at least once in their lifetime.”
For this reason, it’s crucial to be well educated on the risks of prescription medications and to speak with your healthcare provider openly about any concerns you have if prescribed these medications.
Myth #3: People get addicted to just one substance
Fact: People can and do develop addictions to two or more substances.
Unfortunately, becoming addicted to more than one substance is not uncommon. Mixing drugs and/or combining alcohol with drug use has become a more common practice in order to disassociate from reality or achieve the same high once tolerance has increased.
Still others take specific drugs to minimize the undesired effects of another drug, such as taking sedatives to come down from cocaine. Some people battling an addiction use their primary drug of choice, but also take whatever is readily available to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay.
Myth #4: Gateway drug use causes drug future addiction
Fact: Gateway drug use may be a cause for addiction.
There is a lot of misconception around the whole “gateway drug” concept, that is, the belief that if someone smokes marijuana or drinks alcohol, they are bound to develop an addiction later on in life.
This idea is under a lot of research, with sources claiming that while introduction to certain substances – especially introduction in the adolescent years – can lead to substance abuse, it is not guaranteed and it actually relies on a number of additional factors as well.
This means that someone who smokes nicotine regularly may be at a greater risk for trying cocaine later on, but is not “destined” to become a cocaine user simply because of nicotine use. Factors like genetics, any pre-existing mental health conditions and even personal history all play a role in whether or not an addiction will actually develop.
Why believing the myths can be dangerous
Myths tend to grow around topics that are emotional, complex and confusing, and addiction is no stranger to these emotions. However, taking these myths at face value and failing to do additional research on these topics can actually lead to greater harm.
Lack of appropriate information on substance abuse and addiction can lead to:
- Increased substance use
- Damaged relationships
- Increased mental health issues
- Increased physical health complications
- Risk of overdose
- Serious injury/hospitalizations
Seeking the most up-to-date and reliable information from reputable sources helps keep you well-informed. Check your sources of information, and use governmental sites, well-known medical and psychiatric organizations and reputable treatment centers to grow your understanding and help debunk myths you might hear about addiction.
Looking for the facts about addiction?
If you’re seeking more information about addiction for yourself or a loved one, Silvermist Recovery is here to help. We offer plenty of addiction education sources, as well as treatment programs for those battling an active addiction. To learn more, contact our offices today.