Common Addiction Myths Exposed

By Lily McCann

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

Addiction to alcohol and other drugs can be incredibly damaging, and countless lives have been ruined because of uncontrollable addictions. Despite this, many people are completely unaware of some facts about addiction, and some myths persist despite efforts by experts to dispel them. Here are some of the most common myths about addictions, reasons why they are untrue and some of the damage they can cause.

Myth #1: Addiction is not a disease

Many people who drink alcohol on occasion or who have experimented with drugs in the past have no difficulty avoiding alcohol and drugs. For them, the concept of addiction seems entirely foreign, and the idea that someone could be genuinely reliant on a particular substance may seem counter-intuitive. Despite this, scientists and researchers have clearly demonstrated that addiction is a disease as much as any other.

Unfortunately, this myth perpetuates the notion that addicts can simply “get over” their addiction, and this notion can lead to addicts being denied the help and support they need. Even those who have become dependent on prescription drugs or medicine have difficulty admitting to themselves and others that they need to detoxify from Xanax dependency or other prescribed medication for fear they may not be believed. Addicts sometimes need help, and those who feel that addiction is closer to a vanity than a true disease will be less likely to offer support. Addicts do not choose to have their lives wrecked to the extent that they are, and refuting this myth can help encourage people to do what they can to help addicts recover.

Myth #2: Drugs and alcohol destroy the brain

Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to some brain damage, and some who have recovered from decades-long alcohol abuse may have persistent problems. Likewise, some drugs can eventually lead to mental deficits down the road. For the most part, however, alcohol and drugs do not “fry the brain” as portrayed in anti-drug commercials in the 1980s. Most people who are able to recover from addiction are able to regain their mental faculties almost completely, and addicts should not be discouraged by the myth that their brains will never recover.

Unfortunately, this method increases the hopelessness that many addicts feel. Motivation is hard to find in those dealing with acute addiction, and misinformation like this may make addicts less reluctant to seek help. By being honest about the effects that drugs and alcohol have on the brain, those who wish to help addicts can give them the confidence they need to recover.

Myth #3: Recovery never ends

According to some who speak about addiction, the desire to use drugs never ends. According to them, addicts will face severe challenges every day and will never be able to get over this struggle. In reality, it becomes easier to handle addiction as time passes, and those who have been sober for years can often go extended periods of time without thinking about their former substance of choice.

Again, this myth sends the message that recovery is especially painful and that complete relief is impossible to find. Those who wish to help addicts can instead point out that recovery may take years, but there will come a time when former addicts will not be haunted by desires they had in the past.

Myth #4: Addiction is genetic

This myth is not without some truth behind. Alcohol addiction has been tied to certain genetic variations, and children of former addicts are more likely to develop addictions of their own. However, the genetic effect on addiction is often overstated, and countless people who do not have genes correlated with abuse have turned into addicts through the years.

This myth engenders fatalism in many addicts, and some feel as if they are simply destined to abuse drugs. By telling people that their addiction is caused by their genes, those who wish to help them often do more harm than good. Genetics are relevant to addiction, but they are not as determinant as some propose.

Unfortunately, people sometimes rely on their own instincts instead of science when it comes to addiction. This often leads to a state were addicts are poorly understood and even despised for something they can no longer control. Sadly, this phenomenon is also common in people who purport to help addicts, and addicts are often bombarded with misinformation and myths. By learning about addiction before speaking out on it, people can ensure that their words do not perpetuate false information.

Resources:

http://edition.cnn.com/2012/09/13/health/jaffe-addiction-myths

http://drugabuse.com/library/how-to-help-a-drug-addict/

http://www.utexas.edu/research/asrec/myths.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002490/

About the author:

Lily McCann is a freelance author who contributes her time and talents to the Coalition Against Drug Abuse.


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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Wake Up World or its staff.

  • Leo Desgroseilliers

    Good article , genetics ? what is perhaps the best cause of addiction and alcoholism is alcohol or drugs ! I put that stuff down in 87 and have recovered , the suffering brought on by my use of drugs & alcohol has stopped .

    • Stephen Elliott

      Great myth busting article.

  • John

    I have stopped both my Alcohol(I know its a drug too 🙂 & Drug addition without any really drama.
    I found I just needed to really be ready to, then it was no problem.
    I have since jumped into Permaculture & Gardening etc big time and now have a Horticulture & Permaculture Desidn Certificate. Once I recognized there was no ‘Lack’ as it were no illusion of ‘the need’ dissolved quickly and showed me how powerful I really am.
    I am now studying both Soil Biology and Quantum Physics and loving it and Life!
    Yipeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee 🙂

  • Brian

    Ok. I never do this, but it is something I am passionate about. I think this article had great intentions, but the wording of a few of these can be misleading:

    1) Is accurate, great piece.

    2) Drugs and alcohol do effect the brain long-term. I understand the article wants people to seek help and not the “oh well, what is the use” attitude. But, this headline makes it sound as if nothing bad happens. Once you read into the segment it does share that the brain may recover. The heading should read, “Myth 2: The Brain Can Not Recover From Drug and Alcohol Damage.”

    3) Again, great intention here, but to oversimplify it can be more misleading. The problem is when people say “recovery never ends,” they mean that way of life. It means living in the moment, only worrying about what we can control. We learn to handle stress and problems in a different way. No, that does never end, but we enjoy it and love it and it is the greatest feeling. If you know someone who is “truly in recovery” you will see what I mean. It is a way of life. One day at a time.

    4)I would be very careful calling this a myth. Even in the segment it is admitted that it is true. A lot of people are only going to read the four main points and come away thinking drugs don’t affect the brain, recovery is not forever, and it is not genetic. I understand this article is likely meant to be read by someone afraid to go to treatment and it is well intended, but the fact is that addiciton is highly genetic. It is not the only thing, but if there is an addict in your familiy it significantly increases the chances. If someone has a parent who is an addict and they start to believe genetics does not play a role, they will start to deny their parent’s warnings that “this is just the same things I did.”

    Very good article and well-intended but I just did not like the points that were highlighted and how things were worded. Keep fighting the good fight for all those who struggle daily!

    Love and Peace to all,

    Brian

  • John S

    this is very misleading, ” recovery never ends”#3, sorry once an addict/ alcoholic, always an addict/ alcoholic, you must always practice the 12 steps in your everyday life and always go to meeting’s, I personally don’t believe in relapse when it come’s to this disease, if you end up using it’s because deep inside your thought’s you wanted too, because you weren’t practicing the steps of recovery, and keeping in contact and talking to your sponsor, there has been many of recovered addicts and alcoholics with years of sobriety that ended up dying, because they quit practicing these steps and going to meetings, and ended up using again and started right where they left off when they got sober, son unless you have been an addict/alcoholic you have no right saying what’s myth and what’s not, science doesn’t have the answer to everything, when it comes to the human body and mind