5 Dangerous Myths About Addiction

5 Dangerous Myths About Addiction

One silver lining of the opioid crisis in the US has been to bring the problem of addiction into the open. A lot of people have been personally affected by the opioid epidemic and their experiences have changed many people’s opinions about what addiction is and who struggles with substance use. Along with greater media coverage of the causes of substance use problems, attitudes are slowly changing.

However, there is still a long way to go and some of the persistent myths about addiction prejudice the public against people with substance use disorders and make people with substance use disorders less able or willing to seek help. Some common myths about addiction include the following.

“Addiction Is a Choice”

One of the most pernicious myths about addiction is that it’s a choice. This myth is dangerous because it implies that anything that happens to someone with a substance use disorder, whether it’s job loss, divorce, health problems, incarceration, or death, is their own fault. In this view, any sort of punishment is permissible and anyone who wants to avoid the consequences of substance use should simply quit.

In reality, it’s not so simple. While people who use drugs and alcohol typically choose to do so, no one chooses to become addicted. Many, and perhaps most, people who develop substance use issues begin using drugs and alcohol at a young age, sometimes even before adolescence, when they have little, if any awareness of the potential consequences. This behavior is often influenced by dysfunctional family dynamics, peer pressure, or nascent mental health issues, such as ADHD, OCD, depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia. In short, addiction is typically influenced by forces beyond our control and once we realize there is a problem, it’s already very hard to quit.

“Addiction Is Caused By Lack of Willpower”

Similar to the belief that addiction is a choice, many people believe that addiction indicates a lack of willpower or even a weak character. They think that quitting is mainly about showing a little grit and toughing it out. As discussed above, addiction typically has deep roots, including childhood environment, mental health issues, and genes. People do try to white-knuckle recovery but they typically don’t get very far.

In order for recovery to last, you have to get at the underlying causes of addiction. This means treating any co-occurring mental health issues as well as addressing trauma, which is incredibly common among people with substance use disorders. Recovery also entails learning essential skills to regulate your emotions and behavior and improve your relationships. It requires a good support system and healthy lifestyle changes too. Most people need a bit of help to do all of this.

“Once an Addict, Always an Addict”

You’ve probably heard this saying and it’s problematic for two reasons. First, the language is stigmatizing. Labeling someone with a substance use disorder an “addict” is common but also counterproductive. It implies that addiction is the person’s defining--and perhaps only--characteristic. Indeed, it implies they are hardly even a person but rather something more like a drug-seeking missile. Stigmatizing language compounds the shame of substance use and makes it harder for people to seek help.

Second, this saying implies that recovery is not really possible, that no matter how much effort you put into turning your life around, you’re always just one drink away from unraveling. Such cynicism about recovery can make you reluctant to even try, much less persist when things get challenging. In reality, people do make lasting change with the right attitude and the right help.

“You Can Always Spot an Addict”

We all have some stereotype of someone with a substance use disorder, and while there are probably people who fit that stereotype, it doesn’t even come close to encompassing everyone with a substance use problem. If the opioid crisis has taught us anything, it’s that anyone can develop a substance use issue under the right circumstances. While you might suspect the guy begging for change under the overpass has a substance use problem, you might not suspect the lawyer who lives in a nice house or the grandmother who was in a car accident last year.

In fact, people who are professionally successful are often just as capable when it comes to hiding their substance use problem, at least for a while. Sometimes even friends and family don’t suspect someone has an issue. One of the reasons so many misconceptions about addiction persist is that it’s a largely invisible problem.

“Drugs and Alcohol Fry Your Brain”

If you’re old enough, you might remember the “brain on drugs” commercials of the 1980s. Although those commercials are typically remembered with derision, the idea that too much drugs and alcohol can fry your brain still persists. This can make it hard to recover because some people feel like the damage is done, that they’ve ruined their brains, and no amount of effort will make them whole again.

In reality, the picture is more complicated. In some extreme cases, such as early-onset dementia or Korsakoff syndrome, which typically only happens after decades of heavy drinking, brain damage is permanent. There is also some debate over whether the structural changes that often occur in your brain after a period of addiction are ever fully reversed.

However, we also know that brains are highly plastic, meaning the structure will change, depending on what we ask our brains to do. With persistent effort and the right help, you can train your brain to focus, to regulate your emotions more effectively, to weather cravings, and to feel better overall.

Many of the myths about addiction are the result of victim-blaming while others pass as “tough truths.” However, these can perpetuate the stigma of addiction and make it harder for people to get help. It’s crucial to remember that people with substance use disorders are first and foremost people and that they are often people in pain. What’s more, recovery is possible.

At Enlightened Solutions, we know that addiction isn’t something anyone chooses. Few people realize how they got into their particular mess and they rarely know how to get out. That’s where we come in. We use a variety of evidence-based methods to address the root causes of addiction and lay the foundation for a long recovery. To learn more, call us today at 833-801-5483.


Myths About Sex Addiction

Myths About Sex Addiction

You may believe that people who have too much sex do not have an addiction. The truth is that sex addiction is just as serious as being addicted to drugs and alcohol. By understanding the true facts about sex addiction, you will have a clearer understanding of whether or not you should seek treatment.

Myth: Sex Addiction Is Not Real

Sex addiction happens to be as real as any other addiction, as it carries serious negative consequences. Individuals with a sex addiction want so badly to stop thinking of sex or seeking out sex, but they find it too difficult. There are counselors that receive specialized training for sex addiction to help those who need it. While sex addiction may not be treated as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it is still recognized by other medical organizations worldwide. For example, sex addiction is recognized by the World Health Organization in its International Classification of Diseases.

Myth: People with Sex Addiction Are Always Having Sex

Sex addiction can actually unfold in many ways. While having a sex addiction means spending an unhealthy amount of time thinking about engaging in sexual behaviors, it does not necessarily mean sex itself. While there are those who will have intercourse with different people or sex workers, there are others who engage in sexual behaviors through porn or sexual fantasies. It is considered an addiction when your sexual thoughts are getting in the way of living your daily life. 

Myth: People with Sex Addiction Are Unfaithful

While one characteristic of sex addiction is having multiple sex partners, it is not necessarily representative of every case. There are people with sex addiction who are still faithful to their partner. They can be either married or in a committed relationship and may put pressure on their partner to have a lot of sex or find other ways to fulfill their desires like porn or sexual fantasies. This can lead to problems in your relationship if your partner is not in the mood for sex but you keep guilting them into it.

Myth: Sex Addiction Is Only for Men

It is common to believe that men are the only ones dealing with sex addiction since men are known to have stronger sex drives or are more sexually aggressive. The truth is that both men and women can have sex addiction. Women often get scorned for having too much sex. They may be doing the same things that men with sex addiction do, but people often label them as a “slut” or a “whore” instead of thinking that they may actually have a mental issue. 

Myth: Sex Addiction Treatment Cures You of Sexual Behaviors

Sex addiction treatment is not about judging or condemning you of your sexual behaviors. Treatment is all about addressing compulsive and out of control sexual behavior. Your therapist will not tell you that you need to give up sex forever or to just have a particular kind of sex. It is about trying to keep your sexual urges under control, learning about what it is that makes you have these strong urges, and about developing healthy habits. 

Myth: Sex Addiction Therapists Know Nothing of Mental Illnesses

The truth is that sex addiction therapists are practicing clinicians before they begin their specialty of sex addiction. They have training in psycho-diagnostics and look at the signs and symptoms of other mental illnesses, as well as addictions. Having a sex addiction could be the result of using sex as a way to escape feelings of anxiety or depression. Therapists are aware of the number of factors that can lead to sex addiction and should have no problem addressing them.

Myth: Sex Addiction Treatment Is Anti-Sex

Going into treatment for sex addiction is not for the purpose of turning you against sex. It is about helping people enjoy sex in a healthy way. Many people develop a sex addiction as a means of escape or self-medicating the pain they are in. Sex addiction treatment will teach you how to have sex in a healthy way and slowly bring it back into your life.

Myth: Sex Addiction Is Loving Sex

People who have sex addiction feel shame and guilt after their hypersexual activity. They wish they were not this way, but they feel they cannot help it. They do not have to have a romantic attraction to whoever they are having sex with. It is possible for individuals to have too much sex because they are trying to escape negative feelings, only to discover those feelings are still there. They are hoping these feelings will disappear with more sex. In sex addiction therapy, you will learn about what you like and do not like about sex.

Myth: Sex Addiction Means Having Sex Issues

Having a sex addiction means you have an underlying mental health issue. You are using sex to cope, and it could be a symptom of trauma. If you have suffered from abuse as a child, it can affect the way you view sex, as well as leave you with challenging thoughts and feelings. It can also occur if you have been abused, neglected, manipulated, or did not get enough attachment growing up (resulting in a longing for feelings of love and affection). By getting help for your sex addiction, you can enjoy sexual intimacy and make healthier decisions.

Located on the shore of Southern New Jersey, Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center that uses evidence-based therapies and holistic healing to treat addiction and mental illness. With the opportunity to learn about therapies that are keyed in to healing the human spirit and learning about new stress-reducing techniques centered around a 12-step network, you will ensure a lasting recovery. For more information, please call us today at 833-801-LIVE. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.