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The Top 10 Common Misconceptions About Addiction

Even though addiction has been around for decades, people still have misconceptions about addiction. Even addicts and recovering addicts continue to hold onto these misconceptions. Today, we’re exposing many of these misconceptions and sharing the truth behind some of these addiction myths. 

1. Addicts Have The Power to Quit

Most people attribute addiction to a lack of willpower. However, in reality, addiction has nothing to do with will. To this date, people still believe the misconception that addiction is a moral issue or a choice. However, these statements couldn’t be further from the truth. 

We know that addiction changes the way our brain functions, and even if someone tries to quit, their brain doesn’t let them. Addiction is a complex and progressive chronic disease of the brain reward system. Because their brain is rewired, it receives misinformation associated with drug addiction or drinking with a positive and rewarding experience, completely stripping the danger or consequences from the equation. Essentially, addiction affects the brain, rewards motivation memory and links drugs and alcohol with good things.

2. Only Severe Addictions Require Treatment

A common misconception about addiction is that addicts need to “hit rock bottom” before seeking treatment. While this was true decades ago, this no longer applies. Today, mild substance use disorders can be treated, harmful substances require intervention, and substance misuse screening should be part of primary health care. Nowadays, we know that early intervention, even in mild cases, can prevent severe disorders in the future. 

Various reports point out that having substance misuse screenings, brief interventions, and incorporating substance misuse screenings at health checkups could reduce more severe substance use disorders. 

3. Addiction Is Just About Drugs and Alcohol

While addiction to drugs and alcohol are the most common ones, they’re not the only forms of addictions. Some people might struggle with what we know as behavioral addictions; these could be triggered by a compulsive behavior rather than a chemical. Some behavioral addictions include shopping, gaming, sex, gambling, and over-eating. 

Often, the person’s life will revolve around these addictive behaviors, but they’ll do anything to keep it in secret. Behavioral addictions are highly controversial and don’t have a medical diagnosis as substance use disorders, but they can still cause detrimental consequences to someone’s physical and mental health. 

4. Genetics Determine Your Risk of Addiction

After the news about the connection between our genes and addiction, this became a common misconception that people continue to believe. While it’s partially true, it isn’t the whole story. Genetics is only half of the risk of addiction; the other half includes the environment, social pressure, co-occurring disorders, and more. 

Those with parents with substance abuse problems indeed have a higher risk of also struggling with addiction in their lifetime. However, genetics isn’t a death sentence and doesn’t mean someone is bound to struggle with addiction. As mentioned earlier, there are a myriad of triggers and causes that can lead to addiction. 

5. There’s Only One Form of Addiction Treatment

Most people are familiar with rehab programs to treat addiction, and they believe that it is the only form of treatment. However, addiction treatment programs are also a complex and comprehensive field. Because addiction is so unique, treatment must be considered on a case-by-case basis to be effective. 

Addiction treatment includes medication-assisted programs, individual therapy, trauma resolution, relapse prevention, and other treatment forms. Some treatment centers will also incorporate alternative therapies like music therapy, yoga, meditation, and other mindful practices to treat addiction. 

6. There’s a Difference Between Misuse and Abuse

We all know about the addiction cycle that calls for a three-step process before addiction. Those who believe this misconception argue you first develop a tolerance for a substance, then you start misusing this drug, and eventually, you land on an addiction. 

The reality is that substance misuse and abuse are the same things. The use of these words was a professional response to the stigma still affecting addiction. Only ten percent of those who need treatment for substance abuse seek treatment. So, because substance misuse seems less shaming than substance abuse, many professionals started adopting the term to get more people to seek treatment hopefully. 

7. Confrontational Interventions Are Always Effective

Although movies and television portray confrontational interventions as these highly effective ways to get a loved one check into treatment, this isn’t always true. Also known as the Johnson Intervention, these surprise interventions don’t have the evidence to back them up on their claims. There’s no scientific evidence that proves confrontational interventions are effective in getting people to commit to treatment. 

In fact, these interventions backfire in many cases, predominantly when they’re not guided by a professional. For these conversations to be effective, they need a professional program to motivate someone to seek treatment. Even then, there are no guarantees it will work. Check out our guide to staging a successful intervention.

8. Medical Treatments Substitute Addiction

One of the biggest misconceptions about addiction is that medication-assisted treatment helps people during detox and is substituting one addiction throughout treatment. Different medications like methadone and suboxone can help control drug cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms. These medications have evidence backing their efficacy in reducing substance misuse, reduce criminal behavior, and reduce the risk of relapse or overdose. 

The misconception that medical treatments substitute addiction is scientifically unsound and limits those who could benefit from them. Restriction to these treatment approaches can sabotage someone’s recovery journey. 

9. Recovery Coaches Are Effective

Recently, a new trend has emerged — recovery coaches. Made famous by celebrities, these are peer recovery coaches that provide emotional, informational, and practical support to those in addiction recovery. Even though these peer recovery coaches can be linked to a recovery community organization or a treatment center, we don’t know if their assistance effectively prevents relapse. 

The reality is that recovery coaches are not substance use disorder counselors or case managers. They’re also not 12-step program sponsors and don’t have licenses or certifications. There’s very little evidence that supports the effectiveness of peer recovery coaches, although preliminary studies look promising. 

10. Halfway Homes Are Not Effective

Recovery houses can be highly effective in helping those completing drug, and alcohol addiction detox or treatment remain sober. Various studies have looked at the effectiveness of halfway homes and found significant promising results, including that 87 percent of residents were still abstinent after two years of leaving treatment. Abstinent rates are usually 4-5 higher than typical outcomes for those in halfway homes. In the end, those recovering from addiction in recovery houses reported higher favorable rates of self-efficacy and monthly incomes, as well as lower incarceration rates. 

Overall, going to a recovery house after residential treatment results in better outcomes than going directly back into society. Studies believe that extending the structure someone had during treatment and living with others going through the same struggles as you can be quite beneficial. 

Move Away from Misconceptions About Addiction

Millions of people in the United States struggle with substance use disorders. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, it’s time to seek treatment. Move away from these common misconceptions about addiction and receive the treatment you need to get better.

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