There are several common misconceptions and misunderstandings by the general public about addiction. Houghton House as a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre with extensive experience in this area would like to highlight some of these misconceptions around addiction in order to help loved ones understand the problems the addict has, how to deal with the issue and what they can do about it.
1: That addiction is a moral choice.
This is simply not true.
- Addicts don’t make moral decisions to enter into drug or drink abuse. Nor stay in it. In fact, addiction can happen to anyone, from priests to doctors themselves – who know full well the addictive potential of certain drugs.
- In fact, we have had a few doctors come through our doors seeking help for addictions they’ve developed. Some to very dangerous medications.
- The truth is, certain individuals are pre-disposed towards addiction. There is definitely a genetic component to it — which is why it is often labeled a disease, although a more accurate label is a disorder not misconceptions of addiction.
2: The addict can stop at any time.
Unfortunately, will power is of no use here.
- If it was simply a matter of will power, rehab centres wouldn’t be so full. The way addiction works is on the dopamine receptors in the brain. These receptors are related to the feeling of reward. Evolutionarily, this occurs because it enables us to be motivated to completing certain goals.
- But with addiction, dopamine is often released up to ten times its normal level. And with the ease of release due to substances, a patient quickly develops a strong attachment for the substance at hand. This is what leads to dependency on the substance of choice, be it drugs or drink.
- In a sense, the addict forms a strong relationship with their drug of choice and finds it almost impossible to stop on their own. Which is why we’re often required to step in and help them in breaking the bond with it.
3: Addicts shouldn’t relapse easily.
Again, this is unfortunately not true.
- The problem for many addicts is they go through a period of months where their brain is readjusting to life without their substance of choice. During this period, their brain produces less dopamine than they would at a base-line level.
- Unlike normal people, they’re more likely to feel down and not get as excited about the usual things that they once enjoyed.
- This is why support groups are so important. In addition to the 12 Step Fellowships like NA and AA, they need some sort of aftercare programme that gives them the support they need to carry on until these levels are restored.
- Fortunately, as part of our services, we offer aftercare groups which continue for up to three months following release from treatment. There they meet three times weekly to provide each other with the support they need until such time as their brains have readjusted to a new reality without the need for drugs or drink. We find by following this simple procedure, addicts are far less likely to relapse after they leave treatment.
4: Marijuana is the gateway drug.
Not true! Alcohol is.
- It’s how a great many addicts start off their “careers”. Alcohol is the often the first substance they come into contact with. There’s a misconception in society that alcohol is acceptable and essentially harmless.
- Many alcoholics end up relying on alcohol as a crutch to get through life. To the point that they morning drink or at least drink large amounts of it in the evenings. The damage alcohol has on their lives is profound. Which includes everything from health issues to car accidents.
- For many drug addicts, alcohol is their first experience of a mind-and-mood altering substance. It often isn’t long before they’re experimenting with other substances.
- It also becomes a lot easier to start taking illicit drugs when one’s ability to make important decisions is diminished, as happens with alcohol.
5: Teenagers aren’t susceptible to abuse.
- While many teenagers have the fully grown brains of adults, their ability to discern risk-taking behaviour is often diminished in comparison because it hasn’t fully developed yet.
- In fact, adolescence is a time when people are coming into their own. This is when they are most likely to experiment.
- For some, they grow out of this phase relatively unscathed. But for many more, dangerous habits are formed. It should never be assumed that “it’s just a phase” they’re going through.
- Many addicts end up with their addictions during this part of their development.
6: Addiction is curable.
Unfortunately, addiction is a life-long condition.
- As a disorder, it remains part of a person’s life even when they are clean. But it is treatable in the same way that diabetes and heart disease are treatable. One needs to constantly be vigilant about one’s recovery.
- Which is why we offer a sobriety maintenance programme which meets once a week as a group. Our clients are welcome to remain in this group for as long as they wish. For years even, if they feel that they need it.
So some misconceptions of addiction are real
- It’s important for an addict to maintain a programme of recovery for the rest of their lives. This includes going to 12 Step Groups on a regular basis,, having friends in the programme, and to have a sponsor.
- That way, they can help ensure they keep clean and sober for the rest of their lives.
I believe in you. Not in misconceptions of addiction
For more information on how to help drug addicts or substance abuse and getting yourself into rehab to start a new life, call Houghton House now:
office hours: 011 787 9142
24/7 emergency help line: 079 770 7532