People struggling with drug or alcohol addiction not only have to face the consequences of their actions, but also the social stigma surrounding their disease. The myths associated with addiction contribute greatly to the reasons why people may not seek effective medical treatment. If you or someone you love suffer from addiction, learn why the myths exist and how to enable better wellness with knowledge about this disease.
Myth #1: Willpower Is All You Need to “Get Over It”
Willpower is an aspect of self-control that helps us in numerous ways. When you resist the temptation to scroll through social media in order to finish work on time or choose a healthy salad instead of a fast food burger, this is a small example of willpower in action.
The American Psychological Association offers extensive research about willpower and why it’s important for us to understand. On one hand, we can all improve our ability to control impulsive actions. On the other hand, a consistent barrage of challenges depletes willpower. Some studies indicate this depletion causes drops in glucose levels and changes to brain function, which affects self-control.
Yes, the initial choice to use illicit substances or drink to excess may be a slip in willpower. However, research also supports addition as a brain disease. Drugs and alcohol negatively impact the brain’s neurological structure and how it works. These physiological damages compromise a person’s ability to maintain self-control.
Continued substance use will only further damage cognitive function, even if his or her actions have disastrous consequences in daily life. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) indicates that “dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social, and spiritual manifestations.”
Once people have proper detoxification and treatment, they can utilize techniques that boost self-control and develop greater awareness of triggers that erode willpower.
Myth #2: Addiction Is a Moral Failing
Another constant challenge to drug and alcohol rehabilitation is the notion that addiction is somehow a moral failing. For example, someone might suggest that an addict would be able to stay sober if he or she only had a stronger demonstration of faith or didn’t associate with the wrong crowd.
While it’s true that spirituality can be of great support, addiction isn’t a form of punishment for not believing the right way. And, it’s important to acknowledge that while environmental influences, including associations with people or places, may contribute to an individual’s addictive behavior, there are often deeper factors at work that result in the chemical dependency. Co-occurring psychiatric disorders, trauma, and genetic predisposition may also be underlying catalysts for addiction.
Some people can use substances and never suffer from addiction. And, throughout the United States, partaking of alcohol or marijuana isn’t against the law and, thus, not against a moral code.
The conscious intent of someone using alcohol or drugs, even prescription drugs, isn’t to become addicted. But, as neurological changes occur with continued use, a “motivational disturbance” happens. This doesn’t mean someone is weak or lacking character. It indicates that addictive behavior, driven by a brain chemical shift, will:
- Prompt greater compulsive need
- Trigger response reward
- Inhibit normal decision-making ability
This same type of brain-altered compulsivity presents in other forms of addiction, such as eating disorders, gaming, sexual excessiveness, and gambling.
Myth #3: Once You’re Addicted, You’ll Always Be Addicted
ASAM clarifies that as society continues to understand what really happens to someone with an addiction, it’s apparent that good people can do bad things. This doesn’t mean they always will, but myths like this linger.
Addiction may not be curable, but it’s absolutely treatable. Treatment enacted by qualified professionals is designed to help people regain whole body wellness.
Depending on the contributing factors and the state of the condition, recovery may require some effort. However, with proper treatment and support, an individual is ready to take personal responsibility for managing their illness for the long term. This creates a path of success.
Myth #4: Rehab Doesn’t Work
At some point, individuals with addictive tendencies need to realize that while they may not be responsible for their disease, they are in control of their recovery. This doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
First, the safe environment of a rehabilitation center provides the security and personnel necessary to deal with the physical, emotional, and mental challenges associated with recovery.
Second, a holistic facility that treats the individual, not just the condition, provides effective treatment. A specialized program is crucial to address individual medical needs and includes identifying contributing factors. This dual approach helps someone make qualitative changes in wellness in order to establish control; utilize new techniques for managing behavior and overcoming challenges; and create a life of purpose and value.
Myth #5: A Relapse Means There Is No Hope
A relapse doesn’t mean rehab failed, a person is a failure, or he or she will always be addicted. The National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates that approximately 40 to 60 percent of people experience a relapse. If this happens, treatment modifications are required to help an individual advance to a more stable state of being. Qualified health professionals recognize that a relapse can be debilitating to someone’s spirit, but they have the resources necessary to help him or her progress beyond it.
Myth #6: A Support System Isn’t Necessary
Another myth associated with rehabilitation is the support of family and friends doesn’t matter. Again, addiction recovery requires compassion, understanding, and knowledge. A strong network constructed of people who don’t believe the myths and instead, believe in the individual, is critical to recovery. This network may start in a treatment facility, then extend into the real world post-rehab.
In addition, choosing a facility such as Cottonwood Tucson with a strong family program enables everyone to learn, change, and grow. This fosters a community focused on essential healing and establishes a journey of complete wellness.
By Tracey L. Kelley