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Last Updated on October 8, 2023
As a friend or family member of someone who is addicted to drugs, it’s crucial that you don’t believe the various common myths that people hear about addiction and instead educate yourself so that you can provide your addicted loved one with the help and support that they need to overcome their dependency problem.
So, start by taking a look at these five common misconceptions about drug addiction, which is followed by the truth you should know.
Myth 1: Addicts Need to Hit Rock Bottom to Overcome Addiction
The idea that someone must reach their lowest point to finally seek help is inaccurate. In reality, many individuals can recover from drug addiction at any stage. This often happens when they recognize the harmful consequences of their drug use.
Myth 2: Getting Clean is a Matter of Willpower
Contrary to popular belief, overcoming addiction is more than just about willpower. Drug abuse changes brain function, making it challenging for addicts to quit on their own. So, addiction treatment and ongoing support are essential in most cases.
Myth 3: Prescription Meds Can’t Cause Addiction
A common misconception is that prescription drugs can’t be addictive since doctors prescribe them. However, medications like opioids or benzodiazepines carry a high risk of dependency if misused or taken for long periods.
Myth 4: Drug Addiction is a Choice
Some people believe that individuals choose to become addicted, but addiction is far from a deliberate decision. It often starts with voluntary drug use, which then progresses into a compulsion due to changes in the brain.
Myth 5: Relapse Means Treatment Has Failed
Relapse doesn’t mean the treatment has failed. It merely indicates that adjustments need to be made. Similar to managing other chronic diseases, like hypertension or diabetes, relapses can serve as an opportunity for tweaking recovery strategies.
The Truths That Friends and Families Should Know
In addition to being aware of the misconceptions and myths outlined above, as a friend or family member of a drug addict, you should also know the following truths.
Addiction Is Not A Personal Failing
It’s crucial to remember that drug addiction is a complex disease affecting the brain. Depending on the specific substance, drugs can affect neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. They can also affect gamma-aminobutyric acid and norepinephrine levels in the brain.
And according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the brain stem, limbic system, and cerebral cortex regions of the brain can all be affected by drug addiction.
It’s not a moral failing or lack of willpower as commonly perceived. Just as we approach physical ailments with understanding and patience, addicts require empathy and structured support.
Many Drug Users Finally Seek Treatment Due To Friends and Family
The support from friends and family can be pivotal in an addict’s journey to recovery. Their encouragement can help boost the confidence of recovering users, making them feel positive about the treatment process.
However, it’s equally important for families to learn about enabling actions that may inadvertently worsen the situation and avoid them. Enabling actions include:
- Giving money and paying for expenses.
- Blaming others or making excuses for the addiction problem.
- Putting one’s own life on hold or neglecting self-care to give more time and care to the addicted person.
The Science Behind Drug Addiction Is Changing
According to the neuroscientist Marc Lewis, the modern-day consensus that dependency on drugs is solely a brain disease isn’t quite that simple. He argues that, in reality, drug addiction is a complex social, cultural, biological, and psychological phenomenon. If correct, that means drug dependency is the result of deep learning over time and is most likely triggered by social alienation, trauma or everyday stress.
In turn, Lewis argues that abstinence is not the only way of treating addiction, but that dependency can also be unlearned by creating stronger synaptic pathways. Those pathways enable neurotransmission. That means sending a signal from one area of the nervous system to another region.
By unlearning behaviors that encourage drug addiction, which can be achieved through things like therapy, counseling, and outpatient care, people who are addicted to drugs can gradually resolve their dependency problems and regain control.