There are a number of myths regarding drug and alcohol addiction. Definitions used to describe addicts are often not reliable and in many cases, these definitions are self-imposed. Someone may consider himself a drug addict simply because others have told him that he is one. In order to determine if someone really is addicted to any substance, there are contributing factors that must be considered.
Often, when someone drinks because of work related stress, marriage problems or any other life issues, others automatically define him as an alcoholic. When someone takes prescription drugs for a chronic illness and they continue those prescriptions for several years, others may feel that he is a drug addict. It is essential to understand that not all beliefs about drug and alcohol addiction are actually true.
Most of these myths were created in an attempt to scare children and teenagers away from drug and alcohol use. Unfortunately, even the scariest of myths do not deter some children from becoming addicted. What the myths have done however, is to make it virtually impossible for a recovering addict to live any semblance of a normal life once they have beaten their addiction. Addiction itself can be very difficult to overcome and until society realizes that it is an illness that requires treatment and begins to look upon addicts in a different light, these myths are likely to continue.
One of the main myths that continues to circulate is that an addiction gene makes certain people more prone to addiction. There is not actually a gene in anyone’s DNA that will make him or her an addict in the future. Even children who are raised by two addicts can live a perfectly normal life without any sort of addiction. Research does show that about half of all addictions are attributable to genes but that leaves another 50 percent of addicts that become addicts because of other contributing factors. It is essential to understand that not everyone who has addiction in their family is going to become an addict. This myth simply makes some people who are addicted feel that there is no hope for them because they have a gene that predisposes them to addiction and makes it impossible to overcome. This is simply not true.
Another myth that has been circulating for decades is that marijuana is a gateway drug that causes people to move up into harder substances. This again, is not true. The addiction rate for marijuana is much lower than the addiction rate for alcohol and there is little evidence that proves using marijuana will lead to further addictions in the future.
A study done in 2010 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse showed that 8 percent of high school seniors have abused Vicodin while another 5 percent have abused OxyContin. While teen use of marijuana is believed to be the culprit for further drug use in the future, it seems as if the real gateway drugs could possibly be prescription drugs. These drugs are much more accessible to teens through parent’s medicine cabinets and have stronger addictive properties than marijuana.
Probably the worst myth of all is the one that tells addicts they will never recover. Some people honestly believe that addiction is a lifelong illness that can never be cured. While many people who are addicted to substances will fight for years to overcome their addiction, they can seek treatment and live perfectly normal lives without their drugs of choice. Drug and alcohol addictions are spectrum disorders which means that everyone is different and how they recover and react to drugs for the remainder of their lives depends on the person and not on the addiction.
The myth that addiction lasts a lifetime sends many into feelings of overwhelming depression because they cannot fathom ever recovering. When society tells them that they will always be an addict, they simply give up and refuse treatment. A study done by the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse shows that nearly 75 percent of all alcoholics recover without ever seeking treatment. When treated, addiction is perfectly curable and does not have to last a lifetime.
The myth that you have to lose everything in order to really recover is another one that causes psychological damage to addicts. You do not have to hit rock bottom in order to seek treatment. When someone actually hits this stage, it could be very dangerous. Each person has a different view of their rock bottom. For some people, being arrested for a D.U.I. could be rock bottom. For others, losing family members because of their addiction could be the turning point. Everyone has different opinions of what will break them and no one has to wait until this breaking point to get help.
There is very little evidence that suggests that someone must experience a specific level of consequences before they can be successful in overcoming their addiction. Recovery is a healing period and everyone has the ability to heal from addiction. There are many cases of drug and alcohol addicts who struggle for years to overcome their addictions but again, all cases are different. No one has to wait until they lose everything in order for treatment programs to work.
Commercials in the late 1980s suggested that drug use fries the brain. While it is certainly not considered healthy, it is quite an overstatement to say that using drugs will cause permanent brain damage. This myth simply makes drug addicts feel as if they are permanently damaged and unable to live a healthy and happy life after recovery. Certain drugs can cause damage, not only to the brain but to other vital organs as well. Telling someone however, that their drug use is going to cause severe brain damage is just being hurtful and could cause them to simply give up in their fight to overcome their addiction. When you make someone believe that they are permanently damaged, they may simply not have the will to continue with their recovery.
There will always be myths surrounding chemical dependency. Understanding the truth about addiction is essential in getting help for yourself or for someone you love.