In the lists below you will find some of the most common myths and misconceptions that occur regarding drugs, alcohol and addiction in general, regardless of the substance.
It is important that the true facts, statistics and most up to date research findings are published and constant awareness is distributed throughout our communities world wide so that addicts can receive treatment and get into recovery as and when the time is right for them as well as providing the family and friends of those with an addiction with clear, concise information to best help those with an addiction.
In the modern world we are ever increasing our need for instant fixes and solutions to problems that require time and dedication to resolve. With access to the internet anywhere, at any time, the issue of addiction will be ever increasing along with the types of addiction that will change and may decrease in some cases and increase in others.
Misconception #1 Addiction is a moral issue or a choice
The truth: Oddly, this is still a common misconception about addiction. Addiction is not a choice in the same way that cancer is not a choice. Yes, initially the addict will voluntarily put drugs in his or her system, but what happens after that is a strong chemical reaction and alteration in the brain that the brain works. It creates cravings, urges, physical and mental dependence to that substance. Over time the brain adapts to a physiological need for the drug or alcohol or behaviour.
It is not a moral failure. It’s the result of changes in the brain. Certain people may be predisposed to addiction based on biological and environmental factors. The addict is not a bad person with terrible morals, they are suffering from a brain disorder that can be treated and arrested with the relevant help and support.
Misconception #2 Addicts should just use will power
The truth: Addiction has very little to do with will power. It is a brain disease. Diseases are not about will power. Addiction changes the brain, so when people want to stop, if they are indeed addicts, they cannot without physical and mental withdrawal symptoms. And it can take over their lives in very detrimental ways. Their brains have chemically been altered by the addiction and are not functioning properly. Addicts are not weak-minded people, as a matter of fact they are often very strong-willed. The brain is giving them misinformation; telling them that getting high is a good idea. The ability to choose goes away because their brain constantly reassured them into a false sense of security that they are doing the right thing, even when their lives are physically falling apart in front of them.
Misconception #3 Addiction is just about drugs and alcohol
The truth: While addiction to drugs and alcohol is widespread and well-known, there are many other addictions that fly under the radar. These addictions are known as process addictions. Process addictions occur when a person is dependent, not on a chemical, but on a compulsive behaviour like shopping, gaming, sex, gambling, or even over-eating.
Often times a person’s life will revolve around the behaviour, but they keep it hidden or it appears to be socially acceptable. Take gambling for instance; there are a lot of people out there who can gamble for fun. Millions of tourists head to Las Vegas every year to gamble and catch a show. Not everyone gets addicted, but there are many who do. Process addictions can be as powerful as drugs and alcohol and the consequences are just as severe.
Misconception #4 Addicts are not easy to identify
The truth: It seems like this should be common knowledge by now. Perhaps the stereotypes of homeless addicts or poor people as addicts have been burned into peoples’ consciousness. But the truth is that anyone can be an addict and it’s often hard to see. Addiction breaks all stereotypes. No one is exempt from addiction, it can be anyone from the football mum next door to the stockbroker, tradesman, shopworker, emergency service personnel, healthcare professionals or celebrities. Addiction does not discriminate. It is an equal opportunity offender that affects all races, classes, professions, ages, genders, etc.
Misconception #5 Taking pills is far less addictive than illegal drugs
The truth: Prescription pills are equally as dangerous as illegal drugs and often even more subtle. Just because a doctor prescribes a pill doesn’t mean that it’s safe for everyone and isn’t able to cause an addiction to that medication. In fact in 2015, a substance abuse and mental health charity found that 18.9 million UK residents aged 12 and older misused prescription drugs in the past year. About 5 percent of UK residents aged 12 and older had a prescription drug use disorder. For some, prescription medication is the gateway drug to more illicit substances or behavioural addictions.
Misconception #6 Once an addict always an addict
The Truth: The good news is that addiction is a treatable/arrestable disorder. Addicts who seek help can recover and go on to live long productive, healthy, productive lives. Help can be sought through treatment centres, both inpatient (rehab/detox based treatment) and outpatient (community based MAT schemes and psychological therapies), as well as recovery programmes like AA, NA, CA and counselling. The chronic nature of addiction means that for some people relapse, or a return to drug use after an attempt to stop, can be part of the process, but effective treatments are designed to help with relapse prevention in mind. And the truth is that many addicts do recover.
Myth: I can drink and still be in control.
Fact: Drinking impairs your judgment, which increases the likelihood that you will do something you’ll later regret such as having unprotected sex, being involved in date rape, damaging property, take medication that isn’t prescribed to you, use illicit substances or being victimised by others.
Myth: Marijuana isn’t addictive.
Fact: Around 3 in 11 people who use marijuana could become addicted.
Myth: Drinking isn’t all that dangerous.
Fact: Among college students, alcohol contributes to deaths from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, as well as assaults, sexual assaults or date rapes, and poor academic performance. In others it can effect your ability to hold down a job or take care of your children. Chronic alcohol consumption also means that you are more likely to become addicted to alcohol and develop associated physical and mental health problems associated with alcohol abuse such as liver failure, depression ect and can also lead to loss of your children, home, partner, jobs and other commitments.
Myth: I can sober up quickly if I have to.
Fact: It takes about 2 hours for the adult body to eliminate the alcohol content of a single drink, depending on your weight, strength of your drink(s), whether you have eaten previously and other medical reasons that may speed up or delay the process of alcohol. Nothing can speed up this process – not even coffee, rehydration drinks or cold showers.
Myth: Smokeless tobacco does not cause cancer.
Myth: Beer doesn’t have as much alcohol as hard liquor.
Fact: Smokeless tobacco (such as chewing tobacco and snuff) increases the risk of cancer especially oral cancers and dental problems.
Myth: I can manage to drive well enough after a few drinks.
Fact: The effects of alcohol start sooner than people realise, with mild impairment (up to .05 BAC) starting to affect speech, memory, attention, coordination, and balance. We would highly recommend that you do not drink and drive, no matter how much or little you have drunk. It isn’t worth taking the risk with your life or others.
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