Myths and Facts

Myth: My husband can’t be an addict if he has a good job.

Fact: Addicts are often thought of as unemployed, unproductive, criminal and homeless. However, over 70% of people with addictions are employed and live with their families. Addiction is a progressive disease that impacts all aspects of a person’s life. If left untreated, it may eventually impact a person’s career and family.

Myth: I can quit anytime I want. I’ve even quit for months at a time.

Fact: Many people who are addicted do not realize how serious their drug or alcohol abuse is and believe that they can stop at any time. A person may go periods of time, even weeks or months, and not drink alcohol or use drugs. Recurrence or relapse after periods of abstinence is a fundamental feature of addiction.

Myth: People have to hit rock bottom before getting help.

Fact: There is no evidence that this is true. In fact, the sooner the individual goes through an intervention process or agrees to seek help, they often realize how much they have to lose if they do not seek assistance.

Myth: You have to want treatment in order for it to be effective.

Fact: We often see people enter treatment even when they are not willing. After participating in treatment, they eventually realize that a problem exists and can be as successful as somebody who wanted to attend treatment. People who are forced into treatment do recover. Addicted people may be pushed to enter a treatment program in a number of ways: employers may threaten to fire a person unless treated, a spouse may threaten to leave the relationship. Or, the court may offer treatment in lieu of prison. In fact, research shows that the outcomes for those legally mandated to enter treatment can be as good as the outcomes for those who entered voluntarily.

Myth: If someone relapses, that means treatment won’t work.

Fact: Similar to other chronic diseases like diabetes or heart disease, addiction can be treated. As with other chronic diseases, it is not uncommon for a person to relapse and begin using again. Relapse, however, does not signal treatment failure—rather, it indicates that treatment should be adjusted to help the individual recover. Addicts are most vulnerable to drug or alcohol use in the first few months immediately following their release from treatment. Stress from work or family problems, social situations or environment can easily become triggers.

Myth: If addicts had more willpower they would be able to just quit.

Fact: A person starts out as an occasional drug user and that is voluntary decision, but over time the continued use of substances changes the brain in a way that results in compulsive and even uncontrollable use. It can be wrongfully assumed that people with addictions lack moral principles or willpower and that they can stop using simply by choosing to change their behavior. In reality, addiction is a complex disease caused by chemical changes in the brain. Quitting takes more than good intentions. A treatment program, combined with the support of family and friends, participation in 12-Step groups or other therapy are often necessary to help people live a life of recovery.

Myth: Addiction is a social problem or a problem of morals. Addicts are bad, crazy or stupid.

Fact: People with addictions may behave in a way that is in violation of their own personal values or the laws of society. If one simply looks at the behavior of a person with addiction, they may believe that the person with addiction is, at their core, “a bad person.” Addiction is caused by chemical changes in the brain. Therefore, addiction is about the brain, not about morals.

Myth: If a person has an addiction, they should be absolved from all responsibility for their behaviors.

Fact: Personal responsibility is important in all aspects of life, including how a person maintains their own health. It is often said in the addiction world that “You are not responsible for your disease, but you are responsible for your recovery.” People with addiction need to take personal responsibility for how they manage their illness. Persons with addiction may commit criminal acts and could be held accountable by facing the consequences society has outlined for those actions.

Myth: Addicts should be punished for using drugs or alcohol, not treated.

Fact: Science is demonstrating that addicts have a brain disease that causes them to have impaired control over their use. Addicts need treatment for their changed brain chemistry, to learn to cope with triggers and learn to re-socialize without chemicals. Some people get into cycles of criminal behavior precisely because they must sustain their drug or alcohol use. Their bodies and brains tell them they will not survive without the substance.
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