Myths About Addiction
As we’ve learned through research, there are many myths about addiction. We know that the concerns about gateway drugs are well-founded, but gateway drugs are not the sole cause of addiction. There is a difference between correlation and causation. The use of these substances leading to addiction has more to do with other risk factors. For many, it is about the dangers of the substance. Examining the myths about the causes of addiction provide a better understanding of gateway drugs and their influence. These are the three most common gateway drugs. They are substances considered by many professionals and organizations to be dangerous and warrant their own specialized rehab programs.
It’s important to understand that the gateway drug hypothesis does not say that using a particular substance (like alcohol or marijuana) will always lead to addiction or dangerous effects. But research shows that it opens the door for a greater likeliness that a person will become addicted. Anyone who’s ever been at a party knows that there are people who become more open to ramping up their partying. Many of us have seen a person at a party who is drunk accept the offer to try a new substance. When you’re intoxicated, you lose your inhibitions. What becomes an episode at a party can develop into a preference, then a habit and before long, an addiction.
The Transition to Addiction
Casual drug use can rapidly turn into an addiction. While the choice to get high the first time was indeed a choice, something happens to the brain with continued use of substances. The neuroreceptors in the brain undergo changes that compel the user to seek higher doses and at a greater frequency. An addiction has blossomed and at this point, things start to go downhill. This is one of the many myths about the causes of addiction – that an addict is choosing to continue his use of substances. It’s one of many myths but for the purposes of our discussion, we’ll focus on the more popular myths.
Myths About the Causes of Addiction
Addiction Myth #1: People suffering from addiction lack the willpower to stop.
It’s a common practice to incorrectly assume that addicted individuals simply lack the willpower or motivation to overcome their drug or alcohol abuse. As mentioned before, addiction actually changes the brain of the user, severely impairing willpower and impeding their self-control. Additionally, most medical associations including the American Medical Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine now classify addiction as a chronic disease. This means it is a long-lasting condition that can be controlled but not cured (similar to diabetes or cancer). This is because science has proven that the changes in the brain are tangible.
Just as individuals cannot overcome cancer with sheer willpower, it’s highly unlikely that addicted individuals can either. Addiction changes the way a person’s brain and body operate and functions which impacts their ability to resist substances. When drugs are abused, the chemicals responsible for pleasure that is released in the brain are affected, and over time, the release of these chemicals modifies the parts of the brain that control the pleasure, motivation, and memory centers. As a result, people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol with experience intense, uncontrollable cravings and typically wind up putting their drug use over everything else, including life-sustaining necessities like food, water, and shelter.
Addiction Myth #2: Everyone who is addicted is the same.
The stereotype that addicted individuals are all low-income or unemployed, minorities, criminals, or of low socioeconomic status is simply unfounded. Science has long since proven that that addiction can affect anyone. If you were to walk into any addiction treatment center in California, you’d see a wide range of patients. They come from all walks of life, all ethnic groups, and all socioeconomic standings. Many people are high-functioning addicts who are often able to maintain a successful career, maintain their friends and social network, and continue to keep up appearances of normality at home, all while hiding their addiction and substance abuse. In many cases, loved ones don’t find out about the problem until it has completely spiraled out of control. High-functioning addicts may be able to function for a while, but in the end, the truth always emerges, usually after a serious legal or health incident.
Addiction Myth #3: Prescription drugs are safe.
The myth that prescription drugs are safer than illicit drugs just because they are recommended by a doctor is dangerous. Even if you follow prescription instructions, they still lead to addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has proven that prescription drugs can be just as dangerous and addictive as illicit drugs. Unfortunately, some drugs, such as prescription opioids, can result in addiction even if a person takes them as prescribed by their doctor. In fact, prescription opioids are the most commonly abused prescription drugs.
Cough and cold medicines are the most frequently abused over-the-counter medications. They’re easy to get, especially for teens who are especially prone to experimentation. A good doctor will always consider your health conditions, current, and past drug use, as well as alternative medications before prescribing a potentially addictive drug to treat your symptoms. If you feel uncomfortable taking a medication that your doctor prescribed, there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting a second opinion or asking your doctor about alternatives options.
Addiction Myth #4: Every person that uses drugs becomes addicted.
Although drug abuse can certainly lead to addiction (and in many cases it does), not every person that uses drugs or alcohol is addicted. In some cases, a person may be physically dependent on a substance, but not addicted. This is because certain parts of the brain are associated with addiction while others are associated with physical dependence. For example, a hospital patient may be dependent on morphine after receiving it regularly for pain relief. Once they are taken off of the drug, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. However, this situation does not involve any of the compulsive, uncontrollable use that is associated with addiction.
Unlike physical dependence, addiction is characterized by uncontrollable cravings, an inability to control usage and continued use despite doing harm to oneself and those around them. Drug detox or rehab is required to break a person’s physical dependence on a substance and alcohol and drug rehab is needed to modify the negative behavioral and thought patterns associated with addiction. There are many addiction treatment programs in California that specialize in every stage of rehab, including:
- Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
- Intensive outpatient program (IOP)
- Outpatient treatment program
- Medication-assisted treatment
- Vocational development program
Addiction Myth #5: People who become addicted lack a moral compass.
The stigma surrounding addiction implies that addicted people lack morals, but this assumption is simply baseless. This is one of the nastiest myths of addiction. While the initial choice to use a drug may not have been a wise decision, no one sets out to become addicted to drugs and alcohol. They certainly do not choose the consequences that come along with it. While there is no single cause of addiction, we know that there are several risk factors that may increase a person’s likelihood to become addicted to drugs and alcohol. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reports that genetics account for 50-75 percent of the risk for addiction and there are also numerous other addiction risk factors to consider, such as exposure to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse:
- Exposure to trauma
- Substance abuse in the family or within peer social groups
- Drug use that begins at an early age
- Mental illness
- Certain personality traits and brain characteristics
Addiction Myth #6: There’s only one type of addiction treatment that works.
As every individual is different, addiction treatment should vary as well. While an inpatient alcohol and drug rehab program may have been a fantastic choice for your dad, your friend may benefit more from an outpatient drug rehab program. Much of it will depend on personal circumstances. The person’s current and past drug use and any previous treatment they have received factor in.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that treatment lasting at least 90 days is more likely to result in long-term sobriety. There are many aspects of treatment that should be adjusted to better fit the needs of each individual. For example, group therapy may be extremely advantageous for one person. But it may not be as powerful for another individual. As the 12 step program suggests, “people, places and things,” meaning that a change of your surroundings during recovery is strongly recommended. This is why so many people choose addiction recovery treatment in California.
Treating Causes of Addiction at Renaissance Recovery
At Renaissance Recovery, an Orange County addiction treatment center, we’re told by our residents that addiction treatment in Southern California was a big attraction for them. Renaissance Recovery incorporates a variety of evidence-based treatments into individualized treatment plans. They are designed based on the needs of the individual. Whether or not you choose addiction treatment in Orange County, California or anywhere else, the most important thing is to find a drug and alcohol rehab program that works for you or your loved one. Different programs include:
- Men’s and women’s rehab programs
- Addiction therapy services
- Dual diagnosis treatment
- Holistic therapy program
- Mental health treatment