struggles with substance use. Along with greater media coverage of the causes of substance use problems,
attitudes are slowly changing.
persistent myths about addiction prejudice the public against people with substance use disorders and make people with substance use disorders less able or willing
to seek help. Some common myths about addiction include the following.
One of the most pernicious myths about addiction is that it’s a choice. This myth is dangerous because it implies that anything that happens to someone with a substance use disorder, whether it’s job loss, divorce, health problems, incarceration, or death, is their own fault. In this view, any sort of punishment is permissible and anyone who wants
to avoid the consequences of substance use should
develop substance use issues begin using drugs and
alcohol at a young age, sometimes even before adolescence, when they have little, if any awareness of the
potential consequences. This behavior is often influenced by dysfunctional family dynamics, peer pressure, or nascent mental health issues, such as ADHD, OCD, depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia. In short, addiction is typically influenced by forces beyond our control and once we realize there is a problem, it’s already very hard to quit.
Similar to the belief that addiction is a choice, many people believe that addiction indicates a lack of willpower or even a weak character. They think that quitting is mainly about showing a little grit and toughing it out. As discussed above, addiction typically has deep roots, including childhood environment, mental health issues, and genes. People do try to white-knuckle recovery but they typically don’t get very far.
behavior and improve your relationships. It requires a good support system and healthy lifestyle changes too. Most people need a bit of help to do all of this.
Labeling someone with a substance use disorder an “addict” is common but also counterproductive. It implies that addiction is the person’s defining–and perhaps only–characteristic. Indeed, it implies they are hardly even a person but rather something more like a drug-seeking missile. Stigmatizing language compounds the shame of substance use and makes it harder for people to seek help.
it’s that anyone can develop a substance use issue under the right circumstances. While you might
suspect the guy begging for change under the
overpass has a substance use problem, you might not suspect the lawyer who lives in a nice house or the grandmother who was in a car accident last year.
are often just as capable when it comes to hiding
their substance use problem, at least for a while.
Sometimes even friends and family don’t suspect someone has an issue. One of the reasons so many misconceptions about addiction persist is that it’s
a largely invisible problem.
because some people feel like the damage is done, that they’ve ruined their brains, and no amount of effort will make them whole again.
extreme cases, such as early-onset dementia or
Korsakoff syndrome, which typically only happens after decades of heavy drinking, brain damage is
permanent. There is also some debate over whether the structural changes that often occur in your brain after a period of addiction are ever fully reversed.