There is much stigma and misinformation regarding addiction and substance use disorder. For a disease or medical illness that affects more than 40 million Americans over the age of 12, that’s a problem. Misinformation can lead to poor choices and stigma is well-known as a barrier when it comes to individuals or families seeking help for addiction. Therefore, it is imperative that as a society, we all work towards breaking the stigma of addiction and making sure that everyone better understands substance use disorder and is informed, therefore leading to better decisions.
So, when it comes to addiction, what are some of the biggest pieces of misinformation? Here are 5 myths when it comes to addiction:
This is probably the biggest myth regarding addiction. You can hear it in regular conversations, and you most certainly will hear it browsing comments on any social media platform like Facebook, TikTok, or Instagram in any post regarding addiction, addiction treatment, or addiction recovery. People love to say that people who use drugs are choosing to do so, and therefore whatever happens to them or consequences they suffer are of their own making. You’ll also hear people suggest for people suffering from addiction, “Just stop using” or “Just don’t use drugs and alcohol.” This is a myth and simply incorrect information. Here’s the thing, for the person who thinks that addiction is a choice: It may have been a choice, FOR YOU. YOU may have the ability or the power to choose to do drugs or drink alcohol or to not do so. However, we need to stop comparing each of our experiences and using that as a basis for fact for everyone else. The truth is, there are MANY people that can choose to either do drugs or not, or to drink alcohol or not. However, for a smaller percentage of the population, at some point, drinking and drugging stops being a choice. Not everyone that uses drugs or drinking alcohol suffers from addiction, but for those that suffer from addiction, drinking or drug use is no longer a choice. Why would a person CHOOSE to create chaos, suffer terribly consequences related to their relationships, family, employment, finances, and emotional well-being simply to continue using drugs or drinking alcohol? Clearly, they would not do so. Instead, those dealing with substance use disorders or suffering from addiction are dealing with a chronic brain disease that has hijacked their decision-making and the reward system in their brain. They are not choosing to get high or drunk, but rather they are filling a physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual need with a substance that they can no longer rationally control. The substances are doing something FOR them, and their brain is no longer able to make the rational CHOICE to stop.
- All addicts are the same.
First, let’s understand that the term “addict” is no longer considered appropriate, and rather it is a form of language stigmatizing to those dealing with substance use disorder. However, it is still unfortunately used in common language by people unfamiliar with addiction. So, let’s say “All people suffering from addiction are the same.” This simply isn’t true. This myth perpetuates the image of someone suffering from addiction or alcoholism as the homeless person under a bridge in a trench coat, holding either a brown paper bag with a bottle of alcohol or a syringe full of heroin. Addiction is the great equalizer- it impacts everyone from all walks of life. Addiction can happen regardless of your race, color, creed, religious affiliation, sex, gender, financial status or educational background. Not all people suffering from addiction are the same, and many are also suffering from a complex combination of issues related to mental health and emotional health, clinical needs, trauma, family and relationship issues, and more.
- People have to hit “rock bottom” before they can get sober or find recovery.
“Rock bottom” is the idea that someone needs to suffer unimaginable consequences in order to be motivated to get sober or find recovery. The myth is that someone needs to hit rock bottom before they can find sobriety. The truth is that there is no such thing as rock bottom. People can continue to dig themselves into a hole of consequences, and it can always get worse. The truth is that, many people DO need to hit a personal “rock bottom” before they are willing to find recovery, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Millions of people have found recovery without hitting a perceived “rock bottom.” People can get well regardless of their circumstances. Some people can be wealthy with a great job and a loving family…and find recovery. Some people may have to lose some or all of that in order to get sober. The truth of “rock bottom” is that it occurs whenever the individual personally decides to stop digging, and instead takes decisive action to arrest the addiction and stop the consequences, often by going to detox and treatment and beginning a personal journey of recovery.
- Going to treatment is the answer for someone with an addiction.
Is this a myth? Kind of. There is some truth to it, but it’s not the whole truth. As a society, we have created a narrative that recovery happens when someone is suffering from addiction, seeks help, goes to treatment or rehab for 30 days, and gets out sober. Then it’s all rainbows and puppies and butterflies. WRONG. Treatment is not the answer to addiction. Treatment is one piece in a puzzle of recovery; the first step in a process that includes treatment and recovery that sustains long-term sobriety. Treatment is a clinical intervention that begins the process and aids an individual in creating necessary support and coping skills to deal with the clinical issues that they have which are often the underlying causes and condition for their addiction. If treatment was the answer, then anyone suffering from addiction would only need to go to rehab or addiction treatment once. Instead, we know that addiction is a chronic, progressive illness that needs to be managed, not cured. Treatment is ONE PART of the answer for someone with addiction, and treatment needs to be through a long-term continuum of care.
Relapse is when someone suffering from addiction, after a period of time in recovery or sober, begins using or drinking again. It is a reemergence of symptoms of active addiction after period of sobriety, recovery, health, or improvement. If we understand that addiction is a chronic, progressive illness, we also must understand that if someone is not actively treating or managing their illness, they will often fall back into unhealthy patterns and undoubtedly return to active use. Is this a failure? No. While relapse doesn’t have to be the story of someone’s recovery, it can be. The important thing is that previous periods of sobriety, recovery, and health and wellness were positively impactful, and make that person all the more apt to return to recovery quicker, based on the experience they’ve had, the coping skills they’ve developed, and the success they’ve achieved. Believing that a relapse equates to failure in fact is fairly stigmatizing. We do not shame or call failures those individuals suffering from chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, or hypertension. Families, friends, and medical professionals rally around that person, helping them get back on track, and move forward. Typically, the same does not happen with addiction. Relapse doesn’t have to be a part of recovery from addiction, but it often is, and it never means the person failed. It simply means they and their community of support need to work together to get them back on track.
If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorder issues, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual-diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (866) 929-4318 or email our team at [email protected]. For more information on all of our drug addiction, alcohol addiction, and co-occurring disorder services and recovery resources, please visit our website at www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com.