Most people don’t fully understand addiction. As a result, there are many misconceptions about this mental health disorder floating around. Many believe that addiction is completely curable and that addicts can quit whenever they want. These thoughts are harmful and can prevent substance abusers from getting the help and support that they need. The lack of understanding about addiction is only further propagating this crisis as many don’t know how to help an addict or even how to tell if a loved one is an addict due to the preconceived bias about what addiction is.
Drug and addiction education can make a huge difference in the life of a struggling addict. Here at Amethyst Recovery Center, we teach loved ones, as well as our patients, about the various facets and aspects of addiction. Let’s debunk some of the most common misconceptions about addiction in the article below.
#1. Addiction Is a Choice
Many people simply don’t understand it means to have an addiction. They think that addicts have a choice in the matter, and can simply quit if they tried hard enough. This is simply not true, and is one of the first misconceptions about addiction that we would like to debunk.
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), addiction is a complex mental health disease. It changes the brain’s wiring and can cause an individual to make irrational decisions. It can also cause the affected individual to have difficulties controlling his or her behavior and actions. These changes are due to chemical imbalances in the brain.
The symptoms of addiction are grouped into four different categories. They include:
- Impaired control, like a failure to quit despite a despire to
- Social problems, like having difficulties completing major tasks at work, school or home
- Risky behavior, like risky sex or even engaging in illegal activities
- Drug effects, like tolerance and withdrawal symptoms
The truth is that an addict cannot control himself or herself due to chemical changes in the brain. Although the scientific and medical community did not understand addiction at first, it’s clear now. This is as much a mental health disorder as depression, bipolar disorder and more. More often than not, the alcohol or drug abusers simply cannot control their actions, thoughts and behaviors.
Due to this reason, addicts cannot simply “just quit”. They need professional help. Alcohol and drug rehab facilities can equip drug or alcohol abusers with the skills and tools needed to achieve long-term recovery. Addiction specialists can help individuals struggling with addiction get their lives back on the right track.
#2. Addicts Are Poor or Homeless
When most people close their eyes and picture addiction, they see a homeless and disheveled individual. They think that addicts are poor and homeless, so they don’t realize that addiction may hit a lot closer to home. These people may not realize that their next-door neighbor or that their best friend could be struggling with an addiction. This common misconception about addiction may stop many people from reaching out to their family and friends.
The truth is that addiction may actually affect the wealthy more than the poor. Studies show that rich kids are often hit hardest with addiction. These kids have a lot of money to spare and often have a home environment that allows them to hide their alcohol or drug abuse.
Wealthy individuals often have access to designer drugs. Instead of having to turn to heroin if they are addicted to opioids, these individuals can purchase black-market prescription opioids. This allows them to better hide their addiction from family and friends. They also have easier access to the substances that they need.
#3. Addicts Are Often Men
For some reason, another common misconception that people have is that addicts are often men. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It can affect anyone and everyone.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), men are more likely to abuse almost all types of illicit drugs. They also have a higher incidence of abuse than women. With that said, this gap is narrowing. More and more women are not struggling with alcohol or drug abuse.
“In the 70s, only about 7% to 12% of women abused alcohol, compared with 20% of men. Since then, this gap has been narrowing. Nowadays, women drink just as much as men. Latest data shows that women may even soon surpass men in alcohol abuse rates.”
Studies show that drugs and alcohol affect men and women in different ways. Women are just as likely to develop a substance use disorder (SUD) as men. They are also more susceptible to cravings and relapses once they develop a dependence on a substance.
Alcohol and drug treatment centers should account for gender differences in addiction. They should offer programs that address gender-specific issues. These programs personalize addiction treatment programs to the needs of the patient to ensure that the patient has a better shot at recovery.
#4. Addicts Are All Criminals
Although it is true that alcohol and drugs are significant factors in crimes, not all addicts are criminals or have committed a crime. Many addicts are high-functioning, which means that they can hold down a job and even complete basic chores without a problem.
The truth of the matter is that many addicts are professionals. They are teachers, accountants, lawyers, yoga teachers, nurses and more. Drug and alcohol abuse rates are highest among the following professionals:
- Doctors and nurses
- Construction workers
- Restaurant workers
- C-level executives
- Support service workers
Those who work in high-stress professions are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than other professionals. These individuals are suffering just the same.
Unfortunately, the fact that they hold a highly-esteemed profession may cause many of these individuals to avoid getting help. They are afraid that they could lose their accreditation or career if they admit that they are struggling with either alcohol or drug abuse. They are afraid that the negative stigma could have a strong impact on not only their professional lives, but also their personal lives as well.
#5. Prescription Drug Addiction Is Better than an Addiction to Illicit Drugs
For some reason, many people see addiction in different lights. Those who are addicted to prescription drugs, like opioids or opiates, are often hailed as less of an addict than those who are dependent on illicit drugs, like cocaine and heroin. Many people are under the misconception that those who abuse or misuse prescription drugs are somehow in better shape.
This could not be further from the truth. The prescription opioid epidemic that has been sweeping the nation is just as deadly and dangerous. In 2017, drug overdoses killed more than 70,000 Americans, which means that more Americans die from overdoses than from car accidents. More than 47,000 deaths were caused by opioids.
“Americans will have a 1 in 96 chance of dying from an opioid overdose.”
The medical community was not aware of the addictiveness of prescription drugs. As a result, many doctors prescribed opioids, like oxycodone and hydrocodone, to their patients. This led to a surge in addiction. Those who were addicted had a higher chance of running towards heroin and other illicit opioids once their prescription ran out. In fact, over 80% of heroin users were addicted to prescription opioids.
Those who are addicted to prescription drugs need just as much help as those who are addicted to illegal drugs. Those struggling with either addiction are afflicted with the same disease. They need just as much help, and will benefit from either inpatient or outpatient care at an addiction treatment facility.
Learn More About Addiction with Amethyst Recovery Center
There are so many misconceptions and misunderstandings out there when it comes to addiction. Many people don’t truly understand what it means to be an addict. Others have no idea what it means to struggle with an addiction. As a result, they have a difficult time relating to or approaching an addict about his or her addictive behaviors.
If you have a family or friend who is struggling with addiction, you may need help as well. Our family support group will help you get through the rollercoaster of emotions and better understand addiction. Let us help you by contacting us today. Our team of addiction experts know what you’re going through and are here to help.
Do you know someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol? What have your experiences been so far? Let us know in the comments below.