shutterstock_508093606_9FUMTPz.jpeg (shutterstock_508093606.webp)While addiction is a familiar concept to most, there are lots of misguided beliefs about addiction and those who suffer from it. Over the years, people have continued to reinforce and circulate damaging myths about addiction. These can be extremely harmful to those struggling with this disease, so we have compiled a list of 5 common myths about addiction to debunk.

1. Myth: Addiction is a Choice and They Would Stop If They Wanted To

One of the biggest misconceptions is that addiction to drugs or alcohol is a voluntary decision. In reality, leading authorities and medical professionals agree that addiction is a chronic disease, like heart disease or cancer.

While addiction can be a result of many factors such as genetics, trauma, and mental illness, anyone can develop an addiction. It’s important to know that no one chooses to have an addiction. It can actually be a very physically and emotionally challenging life to lead, and most of those who suffer from it wouldn’t choose to live that way if given the chance.

A similar misconception is that people believe that the power to stop lies within the person who is addicted, but that they just aren’t trying hard enough or don’t want to stop. Once addiction takes hold, brain chemistry can change, making it hard to control impulses or make rational decisions. The circuits that drive these powerful urges are linked to survival and are no different than our urges to eat or drink water. These overwhelming urges can explain the behavior that we see in which someone continues to use, despite the turmoil it causes them or others around them.

2. Myth: People Have to Hit “Rock Bottom” Before They Can Get Better

This is actually a very dangerous misconception that many people have. The longer you wait to encourage someone to seek treatment, the sicker they get, which can lead to deadly consequences. Hitting “rock bottom” is not a prerequisite for recovery. Any aspect of your life being affected by the substance implies a problem that requires treatment. It does not have to be an extreme situation.

Studies show that people who volunteer for treatment and those who were pressured into it still experience the same success rates. If a loved one isn’t ready to begin treatment, at least they are aware of the option to get better, so don’t wait to express your concerns.

3. Myth: You Can’t Have a Stable Job and Have an Addiction

When people picture an addict, they picture a perpetuated stereotype of a disgraceful person with no goals in life. The reality is that many people who suffer from addiction function well in society and may even be highly successful. It is simply harder to tell that person is struggling, which makes it harder for friends and family to notice changes enough to intervene. Anyone can be vulnerable to addiction, and many people hide their difficulties due to the current stigmas and shame surrounding the disease.

4. Myth: Relapse is a Sign of Failure

A damaging misconception is that relapse means treatment has failed or that the person suffering from addiction is a lost cause. Relapse is a normal part of the recovery process and never means failure. In fact, 40 - 60%(opens in a new tab) of people relapse after completing treatment. Addiction is a chronic illness, so relapse is a recurrence of symptoms, no different than the return of symptoms of type two diabetes or hypertension.

Recovery is not a one-size-fits-all treatment, nor is it temporary. Recovery is a lifelong process that can include setbacks. Even though someone has relapsed, it doesn’t mean they weren’t still making progress before. A recurrence may imply that a change in treatment approach or methods is needed. Relapse is defined as a series of setbacks along the way to recovery, not as a definite reversion to old ways, so even if you relapse, you can still return to recovery.

5. Myth: Addicts Are Bad People

No one plans or decides to have an addiction. It is an illness that takes control over you. After prolonged substance use, people can act out of character and do questionable things. It’s important to understand that these acts come from deep changes within the brain that cause them to act in ways that they normally wouldn’t. Someone isn’t addicted because they are a bad person - they may make bad decisions because they are addicted

Addiction is something that has long been misunderstood and overlooked. It’s best to be aware of the truth behind addiction and how it affects those suffering from it. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, Gateway Rehab offers a multitude of recovery services and educational programs.

At Gateway Rehab, our priority is to guide patients toward a life of sustained recovery. Our team recognizes that not every patient shares the same path to sobriety, and that is why we customize treatment options that address each individual’s personal needs and goals. If you or a loved one are currently struggling with addiction, we are here to help. Schedule your first appointment with one of our recovery centers today or call 1-800-472-1177 for more information.