Myths and Misconceptions about Addiction
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Common Myths About Tobacco
Myth: If an addict has enough willpower, he or she can stop abusing alcohol and using drugs.
Fact: Few people addicted to alcohol and other drugs can simply stop using them, no matter how strong their inner resolve. Most need at least one course of structured substance abuse treatment to end their dependence on alcohol and other drugs. Some achieve sobriety through participation in community–based support organizations (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous), but relapse rates under this condition are very high. The most effective approach is one that combines structured treatment and community–based support.
Myth: Many people relapse, so treatment obviously does not work.
Fact: Like every other medical treatment, addiction treatment cannot guarantee lifelong recovery. Relapse is often a part of the recovery process; it is always possible–and treatable. Even if a person never achieves perfect abstinence, addiction treatment can reduce the number and duration of relapses, lower the incidence of related problems such as crime and poor overall health, improve the individual’s ability to function in daily life, and strengthen the individual to better cope with the next temptation or craving. These improvements reduce the social and economic costs of addiction.
Myth: Once sobriety is achieved, whether with or without the benefit of treatment, most individuals can eventually return to social use of alcohol and/or drugs.
Fact: Addiction is a chronic condition that does not disappear, even after extended periods of sobriety. This is true regardless of the individual’s drug of choice, level of self–control, or length of abstinence.
Myth: We have reached the limits of what we can do to treat addiction.
Fact: The more we learn about addiction, the more effective treatment becomes. Even though current treatment methods are far from perfect, today’s treatment providers are being challenged to stretch their knowledge base and find more effective approaches to prevention, intervention, and treatment.
Myth: Addiction is a bad habit, the result of moral weakness and over–indulgence.
Fact: Addiction is a chronic, life–threatening condition, like hypertension, arteriosclerosis, and adult diabetes. Addiction has roots in genetic susceptibility, social circumstance, and personal behavior. Certain drugs are highly addictive, rapidly causing biochemical and structural changes in the brain. Others can be used for longer periods of time before they begin to cause inescapable cravings and compulsive use.
Myth: You can’t get addicted to marijuana.
Fact: Research shows that marijuana use can lead to psychological addiction. Each year, more kids enter treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than for all other illicit drugs combined.
Myth: “Everybody is doing it!“
Fact: Not “everybody“ is doing it. In fact most teens are NOT doing it. Those who do “do it“ do so infrequently, at parties or on “occasions“. Most teens do not drink or do drugs regularly.
Myth: Previous generation drugs were more potent
Fact: Today’s drugs are much more potent (and therefore addictive) than the drugs of previous generations– some are 70% more potent.
Myth: Hospitalization due to crack and cocaine use is less
Fact: There are more hospitalizations per year resulting from crack and other cocaine use than any other illicit substance.
Myth: Smoking is just a bad habit.
Fact: Tobacco use is an addiction. Nicotine is a very addictive drug. For some people, it can be as addictive as heroin or cocaine.
Myth: Quitting is just a matter of willpower.
Fact: Because smoking is an addiction, quitting is often very difficult. A number of treatments are available that can help.
Myth: Sniffing and chewing tobacco are safe because there’s no smoke.
Fact: Smokeless tobacco can cause mouth and throat cancer, high blood pressure and dental problems. It can also lessen the senses of taste and smell and can cause bad breath.
Myth: If you can’t quit the first time you try, you will never be able to quit.
Fact: Quitting is hard. Usually people make two or three tries, or more, before being able to quit for good.
Myth: The best way to quit is “cold turkey”.
Fact: The most effective way to quit smoking is by using a combination of counseling and nicotine replacement therapy, such as the nicotine patch, inhaler, gum, or nasal spray.
Myth: Quitting is expensive.
Fact: Treatments cost is far less expensive than the consumption cost.
Common Myths About Alcohol
Myth: One can cure depression by will power, a holiday, or at times by taking a peg or two of alcohol to lift one’s spirits.
Fact: Many communities continue to believe in such home remedies. Will power cannot cure depression. A depressed person experiencing lack of pleasure in his surroundings will not enjoy his holidays either. Alcohol may worsen the depression. Depression should be treated with prescribed medicines and social support of the family and community.
Myth: Substance abuse and alcohol addiction is not treatable
Fact: Substance abuse and addiction is treatable. Treatment is typically most successful when the abuser him/herself realizes there is a problem and really wants help.
Myth: Very few women become alcoholics
Fact: Decades ago that might have been true. Today, the numbers of men and women affected are roughly equal. Women also tend to abuse prescription drugs in much higher numbers than men do.
Myth: Most domestic violence incidents are caused by alcohol or drug abuse.
Fact: Many people have alcohol and/or drug problems but are not violent, similarly, many batterers are not substance abusers. How people behave when they are “under the influence” of alcohol and/or drugs depends on a complex combination of personal, social, physical and emotional factors. And like many other types of behavior, alcohol or drug–affected behavior patterns are culturally learned.
It is often easier to blame an alcohol or drug abuse problem than to admit that you or your partner is violent even when sober. Episodes of problem drinking and incidents of domestic violence often occur separately and must be treated as two distinct issues. Neither alcoholism nor drugs can explain or excuse domestic violence.
Myth: Alcohol enhances sexual performance and desire.
Fact: Alcohol provokes the desire but inhibits the performance, but interferes with achieving erections and increases erectile dysfunction.
Myth: Alcohol promotes good sleep.
Fact: Dependence on alcohol disrupts normal sleep patterns.
Myth: Alcohol is a good way to cope with cold weather.
Fact: Alcohol is not a good way to “warm up” in the cold, as there can be significant heat loss from the body. This can be dangerous for health.
Myth: Beer is not “hard liquor”, so it can be consumed safely.
Fact: Beer is an alcoholic beverage, although it contains lesser amount of alcohol than “hard liquor” like whisky or rum.
Myth: “If your friends are drinking you have to drink to have a good time with them.”
Fact: You can have a good time with your friends by doing things other than drinking too.
Myth: “My son or daughter knows everything about drinking, so we don’t need to talk about it.”
Fact: General discussion can update the knowledge of each other and there is nothing harm in it and reality also demands the same.
Common Myths About Other Drugs
Myth: You can stop using drugs anytime.
Fact: Withdrawal symptoms, peer pressure and easy availability of drugs make it difficult yet help and support services are available.
Myth: You can get addicted to drugs only if you use it for a long time.
Fact: Drugs can cause the brain to send the wrong signals to the body. This can make a person stop breathing, have a heart attack or go into a coma. This can happen the first time the drug is used.
Myth: Teenagers are too young to get addicted.
Fact: Addiction can happen at any age. Even unborn children can get addicted because of their mother’s drug use.
Myth: One can try drugs just once and then stop.
Fact: Almost all the drug addicts start by trying just once.
Myth: Most of the addicts get their first drug from a peddler or a pusher.
Fact: Most of the addicts get their first drug from a friend or an associate in the form of a favor.
Myth: Drugs increase creativity.
Fact: Drug use looses clarity of perception and thinking and coherence in action.