5 Misconceptions about Addiction
A surprisingly low number of Americans who need addiction treatment actually receive it – only 2.5 million people out of 22.7 million. There are a variety of reasons why an individual might not seek treatment, from financial to emotional, but sometimes mistaken beliefs about addiction can prove a problem.
Here are five of the most common misconceptions people have about addiction.
If you have a career and family, you can’t be addicted
The idea that all addicted individuals are homeless or struggling to stay off the streets is wrong. Lots of people who have substance abuse problems are capable of holding down jobs and have families. These individuals mask their addiction well from family and friends.
- A 2007 study by the National Institute of Alcohol and Alcoholism (NIAAA) categorised approximately 19.5 percent of all alcoholics as “functional”
- According to the 2010 National Drug Threat Assessment, 8 percent of full-time and 10 percent of part-time workers use drugs
- According to SAMHSA, workplace testing reveals drug use in certain industries that have reached a height of 19 percent
These people may appear to live “normal” lives and even excel in high-powered positions. However, if their family members or friends take a closer look, they will notice the signs of a substance abuse problem. Some of them are:
- Noticeable behavioural changes
- Defensiveness when asked about their drinking or misuse of substances
- Excuses for their heavy drinking or misuse of substances by attaching them to being a necessary factor in keeping up with their job’s demands or networking with clients
- More time spent with other individuals who misuse substances or drink excessively
I can quit my addiction whenever I want
Willpower alone will not help a person to overcome an addiction. Oftentimes, there is physical and psychological damage behind an addiction that needs professional attention. A person battling a substance problem needs treatment and mindfulness practices to rebalance their life again. They also need to develop coping skills and to re-establish support from family, employers, and friends — a crucial part of success in recovery.
Through proper treatment, a person struggling with addiction will be able to deal with the major and minor issues that likely caused them to resort to alcohol or drugs for coping in the past.
I haven’t hit “rock bottom” yet, so I don’t need treatment
This myth is actually a very dangerous one. Hitting rock bottom could mean a person has finally reached the point where it is too late to get help. Everyone’s “rock bottom” is different. For some people, it could be when they are beginning to live on the streets or have had a nearly fatal overdose. For other individuals, they might not need to go that far. Their wakeup call may just be when they lose a personal relationship or are no longer excelling at school or work.
Addiction is a choice that people make
While the initial decision to misuse a substance may be voluntary, the way a person’s brain reacts to that substance isn’t. Misuse of substances changes an individual’s brain to make it extremely difficult to stop using without professional help.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry”. It also lists the following traits of addiction:
- Inability to consistently refrain from misusing a substance
- Impaired behavioural control
- Craving or having a strong desire for their substance of choice
- Dysfunctional emotional response
People who are addicted to prescription drugs are different from people who are addicted to illegal drugs
Oftentimes individuals think that prescription drugs are safer to misuse, and these types of drugs don’t have the negative associations that “street” drugs do. The truth is here: prescription pills can be just as addictive and dangerous as other drugs. The chances of overdosing on prescription pills are actually higher, especially when taken with other drugs/alcohol.
According to this article, from 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 people have died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids. As the opioid epidemic continues, it is important to keep informing people of the dangers of misusing prescription pills and to try and suppress any misconceptions related to their use even if they have been prescribed by their doctor.
Having a better understanding of addiction and its consequences can increase awareness of its signs and dangers and help lead individuals to treatment quicker. If you or a loved one need addiction treatment, Banyantree21 can help.