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Five Myths About Addiction

Addiction is surrounded by harmful myths. This lack of understanding leads many people to stigmatize those struggling with substance abuse, and those suffering may worry about seeking treatment because of them. Below we look at five myths about addiction that can prevent people from getting the help they need.

Myth #1: Addiction is a Choice

This is one of the biggest myths about addiction. Although someone might initially choose to drink or use drugs, addiction is a complex medical condition. 


Substance use disorders can change brain chemistry, making it extremely difficult to stop without medical and psychological intervention. Addiction can also be genetic; those with a family history of substance abuse disorders are much more prone to developing one themselves.


Many environmental factors can also influence the development of addiction. People with a history of trauma, such as abuse or neglect, or those who grew up in a financially insecure household, may turn to harmful substances to manage painful emotions or memories. 


Addiction is never a choice and has nothing to do with willpower. It overrides the brain; however, it is a medically treatable disease. 

Myth #2: Seeking Treatment is a Waste of Time

Some people believe that seeking treatment for substance abuse is a waste of time and money, and people can overcome addiction on their own. However, treatment via an inpatient or outpatient setting can be a highly effective way to detox and set people on the path to continued sobriety.


Rehab centers do not just treat addiction at a surface level. They also educate people, teach them the necessary skills to help combat cravings, and often provide therapy to help address any potential root causes of addiction. 

Myth #3: Prescription Drugs Are Not Addictive

Just because prescription drugs are legal when used under a doctor’s supervision, this does not mean you can’t become addicted to them. Prescription drugs can be highly addictive, and many substance use disorders stem from or escalate from these drugs. For example, many of those using heroin first used an opioid painkiller. 


Many types of prescription drugs can be abused, such as:


  • Prescription opioids - these drugs are often prescribed as strong painkillers and are the most commonly abused prescription drugs. Substances such as fentanyl, tramadol, co-codamol, and codeine are all opioid painkillers, and misuse of these substances comes with a high risk of fatal overdose.

  • Benzodiazepines - these may be prescribed to those struggling with intense anxiety or panic attacks. They promote feelings of calm and relaxation, which can potentially lead to dependency. 

  • Stimulants - stimulants are usually prescribed to those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy, which causes uncontrollable periods of deep sleep. They promote energy and alertness by increasing the activity of dopamine in the brain, which produces feelings of pleasure and euphoria. These sensations can be highly addictive and can lead to dependency and addiction. 


Myth #4: Using Medication During Treatment is Just Switching One Addiction for Another

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is commonplace in treatment centers and helps people manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Examples of medication used in MAT include: 


  • Methadone - this medication is usually used in opioid treatment programs. It affects the brain the same way as other opioids and helps people manage their cravings while in treatment. The dose is often lowered throughout treatment to help people come off the medication. 

  • Naltrexone - unlike methadone, naltrexone is an opioid antagonist which prevents the euphoric effects that opioids produce. It is often used around seven to ten days after medically supervised withdrawal to maintain recovery. Naltrexone can also be used to treat alcohol use disorder as well as opioid abuse. 

  • Benzodiazepines - these medications are often used to help treat alcohol addiction as they work in the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) pathways in much the same way alcohol does. They are used to help taper people off physical dependence on alcohol. 


These medications are FDA-approved to treat various substance use disorders and do not replace one addiction with another. They are safe to use with medical supervision and can contribute to a smoother recovery and help maintain long-term sobriety. 


Myth #5: Treatment Costs are Too Expensive

Costs for treatment can vary widely depending on many different factors. Insurance may cover at least part of any treatment costs, making it much more affordable than paying outright. 


The long-term costs of addiction on your mental, physical, and even financial health will be much more than the cost of treatment. Entering treatment and investing in recovery can pay off tenfold in the future. 

Don't let the myths of addiction limit the life you can create for yourself if you choose to overcome the ravages of addiction.

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