Myths of Addiction


We talk a lot about the stigma associated with mental illness, but it is important for us to remember that the same stigma exists for addiction and substance use treatment. People with addiction issues can be difficult to support, especially if their families and caregivers are unfamiliar with addiction. Here are a few common misperceptions about addiction – you may find that you’ll learn something new.

MYTH: “If it’s a prescription, then it must be safe. My doctor wouldn’t prescribe something to me that I could get addicted to.”

FACT: There are several problems with this idea. Doctors must carefully evaluate the potential benefits of a medication against the possible side effects of medication they prescribe. Many medications are safe if they are taken as prescribed, but exceeding prescribed dosages, long-term use, and taking them in combination with other medications that could affect how well each one works can be very dangerous. Many narcotics and opioid medications (like morphine, OxyContin, and other pain medications) can be habit-forming, not to mention very dangerous if taken incorrectly. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), more than 2 million people in the United States suffer from addiction issues related to opioid pain relievers (2014 data). Additionally, in 2014, more than 47,000 deaths due to opioid overdoses were reported – this is more deaths due to drug overdoses than any previous year on record. In particular, heroin is becoming cheaper and more widely available, and overdoses from heroin cause more than 75 deaths daily in the United States.

BEST PRACTICE: Talk with your doctor about the kinds of medications you are currently taking, and how the prescription of pain relievers may interact and affect how well your other medications work. Take your medication as directed, and limit the amount of time that you are using them. If you feel you need professional help to stop or reduce your medication, talk to a therapist or medical provider and ask for a referral.

MYTH: “Being addicted to drugs or alcohol is a choice. People can stop using any time they want. It’s a matter of will power.”

FACT: While drug usage is a choice, an addiction is not. Addiction is a chemical response that occurs in the brain, and people who struggle with addiction cannot control this chemical reaction. Over time, increased or prolonged use can change the fundamental chemistry of your brain and body – this is when “use” and “misuse” turn into addiction. Furthermore, for many individuals, an abrupt stop in their use of a drug or alcohol can be dangerous, causing serious physical and medical problems, and in some cases, can be fatal. Some individuals can manage their withdrawals without medical attention, but others may need medications, medical oversight, and inpatient supervision to be able to stop using successfully. Some symptoms of the withdrawal process include pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, hypertension, and seizures – and medications can be helpful during this stage by easing symptoms that might trigger a relapse.

MYTH: “Treatment programs don’t work – once a person is addicted, they can’t recover.”

FACT: Drug treatment programs are about much more than just stopping the abuse of a certain drug – they are intended to help people have productive lives in society, engage with their families, and achieve success in their workplace. While the results vary from person to person, the large majority of people who start and remain in treatment do experience success in maintaining sobriety or abstinence. There are many factors that help individuals stay in treatment and do so successfully, including: motivation to change drug-using behavior, degree of support from family or friends, as well as the consequences they may face legally from courts, employers, or human services. The most effective treatment programs support an individual in multiple spheres of their lives, not just their addiction.

The first step in getting treatment is the hardest, but you don’t have to do it alone.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact us at 970.347.2120 or by visiting

Your life is waiting – and we’re here to help.

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