Our society has a lot misconceptions about addiction and drug use. Wrong information, stereotypes, and false views about addiction and recovery can have devastating consequences. People struggling with addiction may be driven to hopelessness by the stigma that false views feed, and therefore less likely to seek treatment.
Whether you are addicted yourself, or seeking to help a loved one, knowing the right information is an important first step in being able to help fight the addiction in the best way possible. Here are a few damaging misconceptions many people have about substance abuse and addiction.
1. It's a Choice
People who do not experience addiction themselves often don't fully appreciate how overpowering the urge to use can be. This can lead to a lot of blaming, or questioning about why the addict can't simply stop or cut back.
The truth is that addiction is not a failure of willpower. Brain imaging studies have proven that there are certain vulnerabilities in some people that predispose them to have a harder time controlling behaviors that lead to addiction. A combination of genetics and environmental factors such as how you grew up, traumas you faced, and the presence of drugs or alcohol in your life can affect whether or not a person will become addicted.
Drug or alcohol use over time can also become more and more difficult to control, as these substances affect the brain's ability to feel pleasure or function. Recurrent use can make it difficult to think about anything else but getting the next fix. For all these reasons, stopping addictive behavior is not just an issue of willpower.
2. Addicts Can't Change
While it is true that addiction has a complex array of causes, and should properly be considered a "disease" that is not the addict's fault, that is no reason to feel hopeless. Rather, addiction, like disease is something that can and should be treated.
No matter how strong the addiction may feel, or how entrenched certain patterns of behavior may be, recovery is possible. With abstinence, therapy, supportive friends, and willingness to work hard on your transformation, you can reverse a lot of the damage of substance abuse, and learn how to live in a way more advantageous to your health in all areas.
3. People Only Get Addicted to One Thing
Different drugs affect the body in different ways, so addiction treatment is often specialized to take into account the specific substances being abused. While there are dramatic differences between how stimulants affect the body as opposed to sedatives, there are also many ways in which patterns of addiction can be similar, no matter what substance is used.
Many people speak of having an "addictive personality" that struggles with addiction to multiple substances. This is important to keep in mind in the midst of recovery, because some people have thought they were successfully maintaining sobriety, when in fact their addiction had merely switched over to a new substance or behavior.
4. Relapsing Makes You a Failure
Addiction is a chronic disorder, meaning that it is not something with a "cure." Over time, with a lot of hard work, it is possible to reduce the cravings and stresses and decrease their power, but maintaining sobriety requires a lifetime of vigilance and self-awareness. Recovery is a very long process, and it may take many attempts to get it "right."
Stress, reminders of your drug use, or other things that "trigger" you back into a place of use can make a relapse very hard to resist. Do not think of yourself as a failure, but simply resolve to "get back on the wagon" and do the best you can, one day at a time. The healing process often takes a lot of time, so don't feel like a day of substance abuse makes all your recovery efforts a waste of time. Think about the ways you have already grown, the coping mechanisms you didn't have before, the relationships you've made. Process may sometimes be slow, but it is possible, if you keep at it.
5. There is a "Magic Bullet" that Works For Everyone
There are many different reasons people become addiction, and many stories of addiction. Substance abuse can be caused by a number of different factors, and affect people's lives in different ways. That is why successful treatment is individualized, taking each person's individual needs into account.
This also means that you may have to search until you find your "match," a therapist, counselor, or support group that truly can help support your recovery in the best way. If one program doesn't seem helpful to you, don't give up. Just know that the right fit will come if you continue to reach out for help.
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