Myths of Addiction
What are some of the most common myths about drug addiction and substance abuse?
MYTH 1: Overcoming addiction is a simply a matter of willpower. You can stop using drugs if you really want to. Prolonged exposure to drugs alters the brain in ways that result in powerful cravings and a compulsion to use. These brain changes make it extremely difficult to quit by sheer force of will.
MYTH 2: Addiction is a disease; there’s nothing you can do about it. Most experts agree that addiction is a brain disease, but that doesn’t mean you’re a helpless victim. The brain changes associated with addiction can be treated and reversed through substance abuse counseling, medication, exercise, and other treatments.
MYTH 3: Addicts cannot be treated with medications. Actually, addicts are medically detoxified in hospitals, when appropriate, all the time. But can they be treated with medications after detox? New pharmacotherapies (medicines) are being developed to help patients who have already become abstinent to further curb their craving for addicting drugs. These medications reduce the chances of relapse and enhance the effectiveness of existing behavioral (talk) therapies.
MYTH 4: Addicts have to hit rock bottom before they can get better. Recovery can begin at any point in the addiction process—and the earlier, the better. The longer drug abuse continues, the stronger the addiction becomes and the harder it is to treat. Don’t wait to intervene until the addict has lost it all.
MYTH 5: Treatment didn’t work before, so there’s no point trying again. Some cases are hopeless. Recovery from drug addiction is a long process that often involves setbacks. Relapse doesn’t mean that treatment has failed or that you’re a lost cause. Rather, it’s a signal to get back on track, either by going back to treatment or adjusting the treatment approach.