7 Common Myths About Addiction

Substance use disorders (SUDs) hurt both the affected individuals and those around them. Therefore, it's no surprise that there are unfortunate negative associations with addiction. However, it's important to recognize the blatant misinformation surrounding people battling substance misuse.

Stereotyping people with addictions is harmful and can lead them to believe they can't get better. This can discourage them from getting the help they need. People struggling with substance misuse are human. They don't deserve to be shamed and embarrassed.

By shedding light on the myths about addiction, we can help put an end to the stigma instead of circulating it. To become a better support system for those with SUDs, let's look at some common misbeliefs about addiction.

7 Common Misconceptions About Addiction

myths about drug use

There are various misbeliefs about substance misuse and addiction floating around — some of which you may have heard before. Here are some of the most common myths about substance use and why they are misleading.

1. You Can Always Tell When Someone Has an Addiction

This is one of the most widespread myths of addiction. One of the riskiest things about addiction is that it can be difficult to tell when someone is struggling. People often assume that someone with addiction doesn't have their life together. They may picture them as lazy, unkempt and jobless criminals with no goals in life.

On the contrary, many people with addiction appear to work successfully and maintain healthy relationships with friends and family. This is known as high-functioning addiction. High-functioning addiction can be dangerous, making it more difficult for others to even spot a problem — let alone help their loved one get the assistance they need.

Many people with high-functioning addictions live in denial. They may convince themselves they don't have a problem since they can sustain what appears to be a normal lifestyle.

2. Addiction Is a Choice

Many people believe that because using alcohol or other substances is a choice, it's someone's own fault if they become addicted. This certainly isn't the case. No one would choose to develop an addiction any more than they would choose to get an illness or disease.

Most medical experts consider addiction a chronic illness, like cancer. Like many diseases, addiction contains periods of symptoms and recovery. It requires consistent effort to manage and treat. Research shows that addiction has similar relapse rates to chronic illnesses like hypertension and asthma.

Addiction can also stem from various factors, including mental illness, upbringing, trauma and genetics. Addiction is incredibly taxing physically, mentally and emotionally. No one would voluntarily take on the struggles it brings.

3. Willpower Is All It Takes to Stop

Another prevalent addiction myth is that only the person with the addiction holds the ability to quit — all they need is willpower. Many believe that people with addictions don't truly want to stop or aren't trying hard enough to fix the problem. This is far from the truth.

Substance misuse alters brain chemistry, impacting self-control and rational decision-making. It affects how neurons deliver, receive and process signals using neurotransmitters. The brain sends signals of intense cravings. These make it difficult for the user to control their impulses to consume alcohol or drugs.

These overwhelming urges are associated with survival, mimicking the instinct to consume food and water. This phenomenon helps explain why people with addictions continue to use substances, despite the harmful effects they — and those around them — experience. These changes in the brain make quitting incredibly difficult.

4. Only Certain Types of People Struggle With Addiction

Many believe that only certain types of people develop addictions. The reality is that anyone can become addicted to drugs or alcohol, regardless of their background, age, gender, economic status or personality type.

While certain risk factors are associated with addiction — such as mental health disorders, peer pressure and a family history of addiction — anyone can experience it. Addiction also doesn't reflect a person's character.

5. People With Addiction Must Hit Rock Bottom Before Getting Better

One of the most dangerous addiction myths is that hitting rock bottom is an essential step before recovery. The longer someone waits to help their loved one get treatment, the more their disease progresses. Not only can prolonged substance misuse be more difficult to treat, but it can eventually have fatal consequences.

The earlier one seeks recovery, the better — especially considering addiction's damaging long-term effects on the body and brain. Recovery can start anytime.

6. People With Addiction Need Tough Love

Some believe that people with SUDs need tough love to beat addiction. Otherwise, their family and friends are only coddling them and enabling their substance use. 

But don't be fooled. Tough love tactics — such as giving ultimatums, kicking someone out or threatening to cut ties — usually has the opposite effect than anticipated. Tough love is both ineffective and insensitive. It can cause someone with an addiction to feel hopeless and unworthy rather than motivated and encouraged.

While setting clear expectations and boundaries is integral to addiction recovery, it should be done out of kindness and compassion. A person fighting addiction needs love and support, not rejection and punishment.

7. Relapse Indicates Unsuccessful Treatment

Relapse doesn't mean a person is weak or that their treatment has failed. Addiction is an illness, so a recurrence of symptoms isn't out of the ordinary.

In fact, a study showed that approximately 40%-60% of people with SUDs relapsed after completing rehabilitation and detoxification treatments. Someone relapsing during their recovery program doesn't mean they aren't progressing. It could just warrant an adjustment in their treatment method. Recovery is not a cookie-cutter approach — it will look different for everyone.

Think of relapse as merely a setback on the road to recovery. It's a natural part of learning to replace old coping mechanisms with healthier ones. Individuals should continue leaning on their support system in the meantime.

Start Your Addiction Recovery Journey With Diamond House Detox

Seeing through the myths and knowing the facts about addictions is important to help you or a loved one get proper treatment. At Diamond House Detox in California, we offer a variety of addiction treatment programs. We design our substance detox programs to address the root cause of the issue through structured group counseling, educational sessions, medication management and healthy dining.

You or a loved one can attend treatment sessions in our intimate residential setting that mimics the comfort of home. With our outpatient detox and partial hospitalization programs, you can spend most of your time at home instead of our treatment centers.

We would love to help you or your loved one take the next steps in living the most fulfilling life, the way it should be. Contact us today to learn more about overcoming addiction through our recovery programs.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Diamond House Detox
Vicky is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She began her nursing career in healthcare by working in the intensive care unit, and then an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After realizing the mental health needs of both the patients and the families she served, she became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Throughout her experience working with clients, she has developed a passion for those with dual diagnoses and specializes in helping individuals recognize the issues driving their substance use. This recognition has been crucial to the individual’s success in treatment. Vicky opened Diamond House Detox so that she can address these issues early on in a therapeutic environment to allow clients to transition to the next level in their recovery.
Vicky Magobet
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