There are a lot of things that get said about addicts, addiction, and everything in between. Here are 7 myths about addiction and recovery that we have compiled to help shed some light.
1. ALL ADDICTS ARE THE SAME
Blanket statements like this remove the person from the issue and turn addiction into a faceless existence. Addicts are unique individuals who deserve to be seen.
There are many factors that can lead someone to addiction. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation and the support and treatment required to help someone address their issues and embark on a journey of recovery can be just as varied.
Just because two people are addicts, it doesn’t make them the same. People with a similar addiction (eg. the same substance) don’t behave or think or feel in identical ways. Humans are humans and addiction or no addiction, we are all unique.
Every addict has a story, a struggle, and an opportunity to overcome their addiction.
2. ADDICTS DON’T HAVE STABLE JOBS AND FAMILIES
Anyone can be an addict. Addiction doesn’t discriminate between those with families and those without. Addiction doesn’t care if you have a career or not.
The appearance of having a stable family and a steady job tells you nothing about what lives behind closed doors. Things may appear fine on the surface but addiction may be wreaking havoc in the spaces and places you don’t see. It will eventually cause tension, stress and arguments within a family, and it can impact your professionalism and work life. It may be possible to “keep up appearances” and it’s easy to assume that if something looks ok on the outside then everything is fine on the inside but there is nothing stable or steady about addiction.
Remember, addiction doesn’t discriminate. It can affect anyone.
The Arrow Health Family Support program has been designed to help families living with addiction.
3. ADDICTION IS GENETIC
This isn’t a total myth, genetics play a key role in a person’s vulnerability to addiction. As do environmental factors like upbringing, behaviour and influences.
In 2004 investigators at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Duke University Medical Centre reported major findings about the genetics of drug addiction. They identified a specific protein (PSD-95) that had a relationship both to learning and memory and drug addiction.
Genetics can account for 40-60% of a person’s predisposition to substance use abuse. However, it’s not the only factor involved and addiction is a result of nurture as much as nature. Genetics isn’t something that can be used as a whole contributing factor nor can it be used as an excuse for certain behaviours and attitudes.
4. INTERVENTIONS DON’T WORK
Interventions are a tool that can be used by friends and family to help a loved one in need. They can be emotionally charged, stressful, and difficult to manage. Generally, when an intervention is taking place, emotions are heightened as people are trying their hardest to hold on and help someone they care deeply for.
An intervention will not make someone’s addiction worse. You also can not force someone to seek help or change unless they are willing. However, when planned in advance and followed through with, an intervention can increase your chance of success in communicating so as to be able to provide the support that your loved one needs. This is a time to create a safe space for them and allow them to be vulnerable and ask for help.
Arrow Health offers an intervention service to help support you to support your loved one to get help. We will provide you with information to assist you and your family to understand the intervention process and plan based on your unique situation.
5. TEENAGERS ARE TOO YOUNG TO BE ADDICTED
Substance use and dependence is possible at any age. Even a foetus can develop a substance dependency if they are growing inside a body that is consuming drugs or alcohol on a regular basis.
Teenagers that use substances regularly are also at risk of developing dependence. This substance use can have lasting effects on their development.
If you are concerned about a teenager in your life, chat with the team at Arrow Health about our Adolescent Program.
6. IF SOMEONE RELAPSES THEY ARE A LOST CAUSE
Based on our experience and evidence-base, we know that addiction is treatable. We also know that sometimes, relapse is part of a person’s journey. It does not mean the end of the road, it does not mean they are a lost cause.
A relapse is a step back, sure. But addiction is a chronic illness that requires lifelong management. Relapse is no more likely with addiction than it is for these other chronic illnesses.
Getting well involves changing deeply embedded behaviours. This takes time and effort and sometimes results in setbacks. This doesn’t mean previous treatments failed because the person with the disease still made progress overall in getting well.
A relapse may be a sign that the treatment approach or other supports need to change, or that other treatment methods are needed.
There is always hope.
7. NO ONE I KNOW IS AN ADDICT OR ALCOHOLIC
Addiction doesn’t discriminate. Around 1 in 20 Australians has an addiction or substance abuse problem. A substance also doesn’t need to be illegal for it to be a problem. Two of the most used substances within Australia are nicotine and alcohol. Smoking is the most preventable cause of sickness and death, and I am sure that in your lifetime you have known at least one smoker.
It can be easy to judge and look at those who are using an illegal substance as doing something they shouldn’t. However, the actual addiction and reasons for use do not differ between substances.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction please call the team at Arrow Health.