7 Common Myths about Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Patrick Chatfield | Jan 20th 2017 Apr 10th 2017

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Drug and alcohol addiction can take many forms that may be hard to recognize. By breaking down the most common myths about addiction, we can help distinguish between behaviors that are normal and those that are problematic.

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Myth 1: Addiction is a sign of weakness

We often view addiction as a sign of weakness, immorality, or lack of will power, but this isn’t necessarily the case. When viewed as a disease, addiction can be marked by physical changes in brain chemistry and physiology. Once an addiction has progressed in an individual, it becomes increasingly difficult to stop using drugs or alcohol.

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Myth 2: Prescription drugs are harmless

Drugs that a doctor prescribes to treat illness or a chronic condition should only be taken as directed. Many drugs, particularly opioids (which are often prescribed to treat pain) have a high potential for abuse and addiction when taken recreationally.

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Myth 3: Only certain types of people are addicts

We typically imagine addicts as deadbeats or vagrants, making it easy to overlook signs of addiction in individuals who don’t fit the stereotype. Some addicts are otherwise functional (have a job, family, and social life), but have found ways to hide addiction from friends and relatives. In reality, any one of us is at risk.

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Myth 4: Only “hard” drugs are addictive

While some drugs are notorious for being highly addictive, such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine, others are much easier to underestimate in terms of their addictive qualities. For example, alcohol and marijuana are among the most commonly abused substances but are still often viewed as relatively harmless.

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Myth 5: Drug use always causes addiction

In fact, drug use is only a part of the addiction equation. Continued drug use despite overwhelmingly negative consequences is the benchmark of an addiction. Some people that have a lower risk for addiction are able to discontinue use after realizing the negative consequences.

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Myth 6: Addiction equals dependence

The myth that addiction and dependence are the same is tempting to believe because they often go hand in hand. However, there is an important distinction. Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug use despite negative consequences, while drug dependence is characterized by an adapted physical state caused by the substance.

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Myth 7: There’s a 'cure' for addiction

It would be ideal if there was a simple “cure” or “magic bullet” for addiction but, unfortunately, every case varies from person to person and from drug to drug. Fortunately, effective treatment options do exist that can be tailored on a cases by case basis by medical professionals.