There is a lot of misinformation about addiction out there that unfortunately ends up causing more damage than intended. Recent addiction studies confirm that myths about addiction are the number one reason why many who abuse drugs or alcohol are afraid to seek help or get treatment when they most need it.
It turns out that the labels that get put onto addicts are what substance abusers fear the most. This fear of the social consequences of going out into the open about an addiction is not completely unfounded either.
In many cases being a recovered addict means going through mandatory drug testing, and dealing with legal issues for finding housing, employment, getting custody of children, and running a business. Many of the legal and social difficulties ex addicts and alcoholics face unfortunately originate from a widespread misunderstanding of addiction.
It's not certain why certain myths about addiction have been perpetuated for so long. It's likely that these misconceptions began as tactics to scare children away from using drugs or alcohol. But instead of keeping impressionable minds away from drug and alcohol experimentation, these tactics have somehow made drug use more appealing and made it more difficult for those who have the desire to recover, to get the help they so desperately need.
In order to make a real change to the way our society views addiction, it's important to look at the most common myths themselves. Only then can we find out what the real dangers of addiction are and take the right steps to address them.
Myth #1 - An addict can stop if they want to.
Studies on addiction have proven that long term substance abuse alters the brain's chemistry, so that impulse control is weakened, cravings are intensified, and there is a desire to continue to use drugs. These chemical changes make it very difficult for an addict to quit, especially if they plan to do so with willpower alone.
Myth #2 - Addicts live on the fringes of society.
There is a damaging, widespread belief that addicts are mostly homeless, criminals, or unemployed individuals who can't function in normal society. While there are indeed addicts who fit these descriptions, the majority of people who abuse drugs or alcohol live relatively normal lives with families, jobs, and other day to day responsibilities.
Myth #3 - Only people with low morals, weak personalities, or who are uneducated become addicts.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Addiction does not discriminate when it comes to age, level of education, ethnicity, religion, or economic background. Having low morals has nothing to do with it either. In fact, many addicts behave in ways that violate their personal set of morals and beliefs because addiction is that strong.
Myth #4 - Having a relapse means that you'll never conquer addiction.
Because recovery is a process that requires continuous work and effort, having a relapse doesn't mean that addiction has won. Many people who have had one or more relapses have gone one to stay sober for decades. A relapse can also be helpful in helping a newly sober person identify weakness and focus on where they could use more help. The experience can end up making them stronger and more focused than before.
Myth #5 - Addiction is a disease that can't be treated.
Just like any other disease, addiction can be treated successfully so that an addict can resume living a normal, healthy life. Even the brain damage that's caused by addiction can be reversed through diet, exercise, and various forms of treatment.