We rounded up some of the biggest misconceptions and myths about addiction and talked to Jason Martin, director of Addiction Services at Sheppard Pratt, to dispel them. Let’s get the facts straight:
Myth #1: It’s easy to see who is struggling with addiction.
Anyone can struggle with addiction. There are many stereotypes about people with substance use disorders that are pervasive throughout society – the one of an old man in tattered clothes with a bottle in a paper bag, or a woman stumbling on a sidewalk, with visible signs of drug abuse. These stereotypes don’t tell the whole story. The truth is that most people with substance use disorders look just like you – they have jobs, families, and hobbies. They may appear highly functioning, despite the internal struggles they are facing.
Myth #2: Only “hard” drugs like cocaine and heroin are addictive.
This one is definitely a myth. While drugs like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines are definitely dangerous and come with a lot of risks, drugs that are used in a more recreational manner, like alcohol and marijuana, can be addictive as well. Even drugs prescribed by a doctor, like opioid painkillers, can lead to addiction, so be careful to follow your doctor’s directions.
Today, there is the added concern that many otherwise non-fatal, recreational drugs are contaminated with fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroine. Because of its extreme potency, it is often added to other drugs—making them more powerful, more addictive, and more dangerous.
Addiction isn’t limited to substance use either. A process addiction is when a particular behavior becomes a compulsion for someone. It might include gambling addiction; internet, video game, or media use addiction; sex addiction; or more. Behavioral addiction looks very similar to drug or alcohol addiction in the brain.
Myth #3: Rehabilitation doesn’t work.
It’s true that people sometimes relapse after receiving substance use treatment. Addiction is a very powerful disease, and often, it will take more than one try or one method to fight addiction. But, that doesn’t mean that rehab isn’t effective or shouldn’t be an option when fighting addiction.
Myth #4: Alcohol causes alcoholism.
Not true! While alcohol is a component, there are a lot of risk factors for alcoholism:
- Genetic predisposition: struggling with alcohol addiction often runs in the family.
- Gender: did you know that men are more likely to develop alcoholism than women?
- Psychological factors: low self-esteem and depression can often lead to excessive drinking.
- Age at which one starts drinking: the younger one is when they start drinking, the more likely they are to struggle with alcohol addiction.
Myth #5: Addicts can stop anytime they want.
Quitting isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds. Maybe you have been able to quit a habit like cracking your knuckles or having dessert after dinner every night. With addiction, quitting comes with many complications. There are issues like dependence, where your body physically needs the drug in order to function. Depending on the drug, withdrawal from this dependency can be dangerous and might require medical attention.
People who struggle with addiction also require a lot of social support to create new, healthier habits. But sometimes, they have burned bridges in their lives and lost the supportive relationships they once had. If their social network is made up of people who also use, it can be extremely difficult to find the necessary support to make positive changes.
Busting these common myths is an important part of spreading awareness about people with substance use disorders and ensuring they get the help they need. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, call Sheppard Pratt Addiction Services at 410-938-4901. There is hope, and you are not alone.
Addiction Services at Sheppard Pratt
Through Sheppard Pratt's outpatient addiction services, people dealing with alcohol, drug addiction, and substance use will find compassionate, individualized care.