Drug Addiction Myths

These myths about the addicted stigmatize them and can sabotage interventions.

Addiction is a choice.

Recovery isn’t as simple as exercising enough willpower. People do not choose to become addicted any more than they choose to have cancer. Genetics makes up about half the risk of addiction; environmental factors such as family life, upbringing and peer influences make up the other half. Brain imaging studies show that differences in the brain are both a cause and effect of addiction. Long before drugs enter the picture, there are neurobiological differences in people who become addicted compared to those who do not become addicted. Once an individual starts using drugs, prolonged drug use changes the structure and function of the brain, making it difficult to control impulses, feel pleasure from natural rewards and focus on anything other than getting and using drugs.

People who get addicted to prescription drugs are different from people who get addicted to illegal drugs.

Despite the fact that prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions in the past decade, the use of “legal” drugs to get high carries less stigma than the use of illicit drugs. Because medications like Vicodin, can be prescribed by a doctor, and are relatively safe when used as prescribed, there is a widespread misconception that they are safer than street drugs. They are not. When a person takes a prescription medication in a larger dose or more often than intended or for a condition they do not have, it affects the same areas of the brain as illicit drugs and poses the same risk of addiction.

People usually get addicted to one type of substance.

At one time, it was believed that most people living with a substance use issue had one drug of choice and stuck with it. Today, polysubstance abuse – the use of three or more classes of substances – is the norm, not the exception.

Source: Psychology Today