Addiction is a term thrown around as though there is one clear definition. While addiction generally involves a few similar characteristics, each instance is different. Read on for the foremost ‘Misconceptions and Myths About Addiction!’

This poses a problem for society as well as individuals who suffer from addiction. When we fail to recognize the nuances of addiction, we fail to treat those who suffer from it.

We’re going to cover some of the myths about addiction in an effort to bring a greater understanding of what it entails and how we can support our loved ones who are experiencing it.

Common Myths About Addiction

Whether stereotypes and myths about addiction are pushed through the media, literature, family, or friends, the reality is that they are prevalent in society.

It can be difficult to empathize with those who are in such different circumstances from our own. Hopefully, this article can shed some light on the various pieces of addiction that are so commonly misunderstood.

Let’s get started:

“The Typical Addict”

We can all probably imagine the person we’ve been led to believe is an addict. Someone who is dirty, irresponsible, erratic, intermittently homeless, (insert your preferred stereotype).

We’ve been made to fear these people, loping a number of stereotypes about race, socioeconomic status, demeanor, and appearance together to form the image of a castaway. This is simply not an accurate portrayal of someone with a substance abuse disorder.

Sure, addiction can lead a person to homelessness, erratic behavior, and other negative life situations in some cases. It’s not the case, however, that all of the people experiencing substance abuse issues fit these .

We’re going to break down this myth in two sections:

“Those Kinds of People”

The result of the stereotypical addict described above is a reaction from the general public. When we internalize these ideas, whether or not they’re true, we begin to brush groups of people off entirely.

As an exercise, imagine yourself for a moment. Think about your life as it stands, good or bad. Now think through all of the safety-nets that you have keeping you from falling into a substance abuse disorder or becoming homeless.

Really think about what it would take for you to be without a home, or for you to be relentlessly addicted to a drug of some kind. It’s tough to think of all of those things because they would need to be pretty hard and unfortunate.

Now think back to the people we’re trained to brush off– those people have experienced, in one way or another, the sequence of events that would lead them to a point of despair.

When we think back through what that would look like, we get to a point where we realize that person’s humanity. Saying “those people” is a way of ignoring the reality of hardship in another person’s life, effectively casting a person out of our minds.

Who Really Suffers from Addiction?

Some of the people who fit the description of an “addict” do, in fact, suffer from addiction. It’s a marginal amount of the population suffering from substance abuse, though.

Addiction can fall upon everyone in one way or another. Legal drugs are some of the most corrosive and abused in the United States. Alcoholism is and has been for a long time, one of the leading addictions in this country.

More recently, prescription opioids like pain and anxiety medications are commonly abused and lead to overdose. The people suffering from addiction to these substances are present in our daily lives.

Continuing to function in daily life while abusing a substance becomes easier and more normal as the addiction progresses. There is a tipping point, of course, but that point may not occur for a number of years before it a person needs to change.

Even heroin attics, in some cases, can function in a normal way for a time. The point is, noticing someone with a substance abuse disorder is more complicated than the world would have you think. Additionally, addiction may be present in people that you swore were entirely healthy.

“Addiction Is Always a Choice”

If you’re thinking in very specific terms, yes, addiction is always a choice. It’s important to think critically about your ideas and assumptions, though.

Was there a point where the addicted person could have said “no” but chose to use again? Yes. Is every choice equal to the next?

That answer is no.

Each instance of substance abuse is unique, and most substances are used as escapes from different elements of a person’s life. While enjoyment might be the initial intention, abuse insidiously finds a way to help a person avoid difficulty.

The following example may seem like a far-cry from issues of substance abuse but sit with it for a little while.

“Easy Choices”

Imagine that you work long hours at a rubber factory, grinding day-in and day-out to make enough money to afford rent, insurance, and food. In this instance, you’re paid very little and you have no respect for what you do or who you work for.

We can all probably relate to a workplace that we don’t align with ideologically or personally. Now imagine that you recently went to the doctor who told you that eating any unhealthy, sugary sweets would greatly increase your risk of getting diabetes which your insurance won’t cover.

If you get type II diabetes, you will be spread even thinner than you already were financially and you’d be faced with the additional task of monitoring your insulin.

Your boss gives you mandatory overtime and you’re famished. It’s been a long, 14-hour shift on your feet and you hop into the car then drive home. You forgot to buy groceries because of the overtime, and the only thing left in your freezer is a tub of ice-cream.

You have to work in four hours and would really prefer to eat some ice cream and get what little sleep you still can, but your doctor told you that you’re at the tipping point.

People Are Faced with Adversity

Choices are choices, but we’re human. Swap out diabetes, the working environment, and ice cream for addiction, an abusive family member or partner, and a drug to help one cope with those experiences.

We can’t treat every decision with the same weight. There is a good deal of environmental interference that affects a person’s decision to use a drug.

With that in mind, think more carefully when you assume that a person has made the choice to “throw their life away” or use drugs.

“Quitting Just Requires Willpower”

Addictions are a confluence of emotional and physical dependence. In many cases, mental illness predates or emerges as a result of drug use and the two have a direct interplay.

Additionally, the reality of withdrawals is one that can sometimes lead to further physical damage. As the body gets used to the chemical abuse, it craves those chemicals intensely. Whether that craving takes the form of a mental obsession or a serious physical pang, the experience is agonizing.

Recovery typically entails a program in addition to mental health counseling. There are also a lot of environmental factors that contribute to relapse and a person’s desire to use again.

Seeing old friends who you used to use with, being in the room where use would occur, or experiencing emotional traumas that would lead to use can all be very triggering experiences.

Dangers of Withdrawal

Withdrawal comes in different forms and will vary with the substance that a person is coming off of. The length of withdrawals is vastly different between, say, opioid users and users of stimulants.

The symptoms of withdrawal can include extreme anxiety, hallucinations, fevers, fatigue, nausea, chills, depression, suicidal thoughts, vomiting, and more. Beyond the initial pangs of withdrawal lie psychological symptoms that are similarly painful.

The point is, recovering from drug addiction is a long and difficult process. It’s not as simple as waking up one day and deciding to simply stop using. Abuse involves a number of behaviors and circumstances that have formed around the person’s use.

Living situations, familial relationships, habits, friends, and employment are typically tailored to exist around a person’s drug use. In many cases, all of those pillars of a person’s life are negatively affected by drug use. This is especially true in the case of relationships and employment situations.

Getting clean requires some physical and emotional damage control. Mending relationships, getting through withdrawals, and finding a meaningful role in society are all mountains that need to be climbed.

Those mountains look pretty big when you’re at the bottom and using would prolong the need to start climbing.

Need Some Help?

You may be experiencing addiction or know of someone who is. Understanding the myths about addiction is one way to empathize with your affected loved ones or feel a little bit about your own situation. Visit our site to learn more about ways to help or get help.


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