Five myths about drug addiction that stigmatiize and sabotage drug rehab and recovery
from Psychology Today
Honest, courageous and insightful aren’t words typically used to describe drug addicts. But if given the chance, many addicts end up developing these qualities and contributing to society in a way they never imagined possible. These successes occur in spite of major obstacles, from the ever-present threat of relapse to the pervasive stereotypes addicts encounter along the way. Even with three decades of myth-busting research behind us, some of the most damaging beliefs about drug addiction remain:
#1 Addicts are bad people who deserve to be punished.
Man or woman, rich or poor, young or old, if a person develops an addiction, there’s a widespread assumption that they are bad, weak-willed or immoral. The hostility toward addicts takes a form unprecedented among other chronic illnesses, prompting harsh legal sanctions and judgments like, “Let them kill themselves, they asked for it.”
It is true that many addicts do reprehensible things. Driven by changes in the brain brought on by prolonged drug use, they lie, cheat and steal to maintain their habit. But good people do bad things, and sick people need treatment – not punishment – to get better.
#2 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 drug 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 like sex or food, and focus on anything other than getting and using drugs.
Read more on 5 Myths of Drug Addiction that Undermine Recovery