5 Dangerous Addiction Stigma Myths
The addiction stigma may be even more dangerous than addiction itself. Though it’s a tall claim, it still holds some truth. Many addicts never receive a proper opportunity to get sober due to the misunderstanding surrounding addiction. In fact, an estimated 22.7 million people ages 12 and older need treatment for drug and alcohol addiction at any given time.
Of those people who need addiction treatment, though, only 2.5 million receive proper treatment. Millions of alcoholics don’t receive the treatment they need, often due to people who believe in the addiction stigma. This alarming statistic proves the dangers of false beliefs about people who struggle with substance abuse.
Drug abuse and addiction kills more than 200,000 people around the world every year. Something needs to be done in order to put a halt in this awful trend.
Where does the stigma surrounding addiction come from? Is there any truth to the claims some people make? Continue reading to learn more about five myths that keep the addiction stigma going and how they affect addicts.
1. Addicts have no self control. They can stop if they want to.
The belief that addiction is a matter of self control might be the most dangerous addiction stigma of all. People who don’t understand how addiction works might believe that addiction is simply a matter of “just quitting.” If an addict could just quit using drugs, why wouldn’t they stop getting high and creating wreckage in their lives?
Extensive research reveals that long-term drug use changes the functioning of your brain. This altered brain chemistry leads to difficulties in controlling the amount used and the compulsion to continue using. After a certain point, addicts get high to fulfill a compulsion beyond their control.
2. It’s easy to tell when someone is an addict.
Most people think of an addict, they think of a homeless person living under the streets or begging for change on a freeway off ramp. Others think of doped-up kids mindlessly roaming city streets at odd hours of the night. No matter the specifics of the picture that comes into your mind, you’re most likely wrong. This prevalent addiction stigma forgets the “invisible” addicts.
You can’t always tell when someone is a drug addict. Hundreds of seemingly upstanding citizens such as doctors, lawyers, and politicians struggle with addiction. There are addicts who never miss a day of work and hardly raise a suspicion when it comes to their drug use. But if you were to try to get them to stop, you can quickly realize the problem is much bigger than you thought.
3. Everyone who uses drugs is a drug addict.
Not everyone who uses drugs becomes or is a drug addict. Millions of people can recreationally smoke marijuana or use a stimulant while out in Vegas for the weekend. The difference is these people can leave the party at the party. They know when to cut themselves off without needing someone to tell them to stop.
Addicts continue getting high long after the party is over and carry it on into the week. Usually there are very few times during the day they are not either under the influence or trying to get something to get there. They will not stop when asked to and often become irritable when someone suggests they do.
4. Relapse makes an addict a failure.
Unfortunately, relapse is often part of an addict’s story. After using drugs for many years, their brain functions differently than it did before. New habits develop and getting high becomes almost a way of life. Breaking the addiction cycle is a difficult process that requires focus and hard work.
Relapse is most common during the first few days, weeks, and months of sobriety. When the last high is still fresh in their mind, it proves itself a challenging obstacle to overcome. The high of drugs and alcohol have a strong pull for those in early recovery.
Another false idea in the addiction stigma is that people with long-term recovery do not relapse. People with 10, 20, even 30 or more years have relapsed. Though it becomes less common as the time between today and their last drug increases, relapse still happens.
5. Addiction treatment doesn’t work.
The idea that addiction treatment does not work is another dangerous addiction stigma. Though addiction treatment is not the end-all, be-all for recovery, it helps millions of addicts get clean. Treatment centers provide the first step towards a new life free of drugs.
This addiction stigma stems from the false idea that addiction treatment can “cure” addiction. Unfortunately, there is no cure for addiction. Similar to cancer patients, addicts can only to into “remission” for their addiction. If you approach addiction treatment with the belief that it will cure your loved one, you set yourself up for failure.
Hundreds of treatment centers like Hawaii Island Recovery help addicts take these first steps into recovery. People learn to live life clean and sober without needing to get loaded to get by. It teaches coping skills that will help addicts in recovery learn how to live life. It should always be followed by an aftercare plan, like an intensive outpatient program, in order to be most effective.