Common Misconceptions: Debunked Myths About Addiction

addiction myth

Myths and misinformation surround addiction probably more than anything else. Since the topic of substance abuse varies so much in the public’s opinion of it, it can be dangerous when those opinions are formed based on false information.

The Dangers of Addiction Myths

Spotting the difference between truth and myth when it comes to substance addiction is incredibly important. If you don’t know the truth from the myths, learning and spreading accurate information about addiction will be next to impossible. Addiction myths will always exist, but treating them as reality can have serious consequences, especially when it comes to substance addiction. Some of these consequences include:

  • Increased drug and alcohol abuse across all demographics
  • Damaged relationships due to misconceptions about substance abuse
  • Higher risk of dangerous withdrawals, overdose, or death among addicts

Gathering and sharing information about addiction from highly reputable sources is one of the easiest ways you can keep yourself, the people you care about, and anyone struggling with addiction safe. Some of the most common (and now debunked) addiction myths can be found below.

MYTH: Only Illicit Drugs are Unsafe

Only Illicit Drugs are UnsafePeople tend to think that only the “hard” drugs are the ones that are dangerous. Illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine are especially infamous for being potent and highly addictive. While this is true, any substance that has the potential for addiction can be dangerous. Even abusing substances that carry a very low risk of addiction development, like marijuana, can be enough to incite a battle with addiction and dependence.

MYTH: Alcohol Isn’t as Dangerous as Drugs

You might be under the impression that alcohol isn’t a serious or potentially deadly substance. This is probably because, unlike most other regularly-abused substances, alcohol is legal— socially acceptable, even. The positive light cast on alcohol, which is often shown as a party-starter in movies and television, leads people to assume that abusing it “isn’t as bad.” However, this could not be further from the truth.

There are some shocking statistics surrounding the abuse of alcohol. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has determined that:

  • 88,000 Americans die from issues related to alcohol abuse every year
  • more than 10,000 people die in drunk driving accidents every year
  • Drinking alcohol interferes with normal adolescent physical development (i.e., alcohol abuse can stunt the growth and development of young users)

Alcohol has just as much potential to ruin people’s lives as any other addictive substance— and it’s widely available for consumers aged 21 and above.

MYTH: It’s Impossible to Become Addicted to Prescribed Medication

Prescription Drugs aren't addictiveThis is one addiction myth that, unfortunately, is not true. You stand just as much of a chance getting addicted to prescription medication as you do to any other substance. Many prescribed medications on the market today have as high a potential for abuse and addiction as illicit substances. In fact, prescription medications are often used to create other drugs. For example, opiates are a major ingredient in heroin and stimulants can be used in cocaine.

The prescription medications that seem to have the highest rates of addiction include:

Self-medicating with these drugs— or taking more than your doctor’s prescribed dosage— is one strong indication that you may be developing an addiction.

MYTH: Addicts Have Control Over Their Substance Abuse

So many people struggling with addiction will make the same, unrealistic claim: “I can stop whenever I want.” This can make others believe that any addict can make the conscious choice to stop using. But this isn’t the case.

This addiction myth goes against the very definition of what addiction is. Substance addiction changes the way the brain functions, making it nearly impossible for the addict to stop using without help. This is called dependence.

When someone becomes dependent on a substance during addiction, that substance cements itself as a necessary part of the brain’s functioning; so, attempting to quit would send the addict into a frenzy of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Loved ones who don’t realize this might make harmful ultimatums like “if you really loved me, you’d stop” or “it’s me or the drugs,” which will only make matters worse.

MYTH: Addicts Will Only Recover If They’re Strong Enough to Do It Alone

People tend to equate addiction with both physical and moral weakness. This perpetuates the belief that if you’re strong, you won’t let addiction get the better of you. This particular addiction myth has a partial connection to the false idea that addicts have control over their addictions: “if they’re strong, they’ll quit.” Part of what makes this myth so dangerous is that it also gives a false promise to future addicts when it comes to initial substance abuse: “If you’re strong enough, you won’t get addicted in the first place.”

The reality is that addiction is not about strength or weakness. Addiction is a disease. And disease cannot be treated without help.

MYTH: Once an Addict, Always an Addict

Some addiction myths don’t always agree with one another. One of the most popular misconceptions about addiction is that once you become an addict, you’ll be an addict for the rest of your life. While it is true that addiction has no actual cure, it is possible for addicts who seek treatment to get sober and stay sober. After all, addiction is a disease; if you work with professionals and find the best ways to manage your symptoms, you can live a healthy, addiction-free life.

MYTH: Rehab Never Works

This addiction myth most likely came about for two different reasons. First, many people don’t seem to recognize— or at least fully understand— what rehab is meant to do. Those who don’t have any firsthand experience with addiction often falsely label rehab as some sort of quick, ultimate solution for addiction treatment. This is often illustrated in movies and television where an addicted character is “cured” after a few short weeks of rehab. The fact of the matter is, rehab is not a cure. Instead, it’s a long-term treatment plan that helps people in recovery with symptom management.

Second, this myth may potentially stem from an exaggerated truth: some rehabs use inefficient methods of addiction treatment. However, this is not an accurate reflection of all rehabs— just because one rehab center failed does not mean they all fail. In fact, the best and most successful addiction treatment facilities are the ones that offer:

TRUTH: The Treatment Center’s Outpatient Services Can Help

There is one universal truth about addiction that professionals and addiction survivors everywhere can agree on: the most effective treatments for substance addiction are the ones that cater to the individual needs of a patient in recovery. Without individualized care, addicts struggling to get sober alone can suffer from extreme cravings, withdrawal, or worse.

At The Treatment Center’s Outpatient Services, we strive to meet the needs of all our patients. With a wide variety of programs to choose from and flexible scheduling at your disposal, you can get sober your own way on your own time, with help. For more information about what our Outpatient Services have to offer, please call us at (844) 211-7944. And remember, all calls are confidential. We’re here to help.