Misconceptions About Addiction
Imagine yourself sitting at a table with three other people. Maybe you have come together for a meal or to play cards or just to enjoy each other’s company. The conversation wanders here and there, as conversations do, until one person—maybe it’s you—mentions a mutual friend who has been drinking too much.
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There might be a pause in the conversation at this point as each of you thinks about your friend and their troubles. But then someone—maybe it’s you—says something like, “Well, if they just had a little more self-control they wouldn’t be in this situation.”
Or maybe someone—it might be you—says something like, “Well, I just don’t see how anything is going to change until they hit rock bottom and have no choice but to get help.”
Or maybe someone—even you—says something like, “You know, they are going to get arrested one of these days. Truthfully, a little time in jail might be the best thing for them.”
It is possible that everyone at the table will agree with the speaker. But there may well be some objections to these ideas—objections grounded in the reality of substance use disorders and effective treatment strategies. It could develop into quite an argument—and you may have trouble agreeing about who is right.
We’re here to help. Let’s take a look at some misconceptions about addiction so that we can get at the truth.
Misconception Number One: Addiction Is a Choice—and a Moral Failing
A lot of people believe that a person struggling with a substance use disorder has only themselves to blame. The addicted person should just stiffen their spine and give up the alcohol or drugs. Maybe they could get sober if they just had more willpower, more faith, more self-respect.
But the truth is quite a bit different. Organizations like the World Health Organization, the American Psychological Association, and the American Medical Association have all concluded that a substance use disorder is a disease of the brain. So, while it may be true that a person has the power to choose whether to take that first drink or first drug, in short order, physical changes in the brain may make it extremely difficult to stop.
Misconception Number Two: Change Isn’t Coming Until ‘Rock Bottom’ Is Reached
It is certainly true that a person struggling with drugs or alcohol is likely to experience a progression of worsening symptoms and problems. And some people—sometimes including the person with the problem—believe that there simply isn’t much to be done until the struggling individual reaches a difficult-to-define condition known as “rock bottom.” The idea is that once a person has gone as low as they can go, they will finally be able to recognize their need to make significant changes.
But, again, the truth is quite different and misconceptions become evident. First and foremost, it should be noted that getting help sooner rather than later is always the best move. If a person waits until they reach rock bottom, they will be in dire straits, indeed—and the road back to sobriety will be longer and more challenging. The other issue in play is that “rock bottom” can be a moving target. A person can always convince themselves they aren’t quite there yet. Using this squishy notion as a marker of when help should be sought is a dangerous path to go down.
Misconception Number Three: Incarceration Is the Best Way to Deal With Drug Addicts
It is certainly the case that many people who have become involved with drugs or alcohol have landed in jail or prison. And many people believe this is the appropriate way to deal with the issue of addiction. The thinking goes that if people see that using illicit substances or breaking the law while under the influence leads to serious consequences via the court system, they will be disinclined to engage in similar behaviors.
But—one last time—the truth is quite different, and this is yet another of many misconceptions about addiction. First, there is little to no evidence that incarcerating drug users serves as a deterrent to others. Even more importantly, it is abundantly clear that incarceration seldom helps a person with a substance use disorder overcome the problem. Court-ordered addiction treatment is, arguably, more humane. It is also more effective at addressing the problem in meaningful ways.
Here’s the Honest Truth: We Can Help
At Bel Aire Recovery Center, we don’t deal in myths and misconceptions. Instead, we have the experience, expertise, and compassion necessary to help people regain and maintain their sobriety. We know that addiction is a chronic brain disease, that the right time to get help is right now, and that medically supervised detox and a robust rehabilitation program are the best approaches for launching a successful recovery journey.
While your table of friends may have a range of opinions about addiction and its treatment, we bring to the table a commitment to helping people who are struggling with drugs or alcohol reclaim their lives.