Even after all this time and all this information, we still don’t get it.
We’ve heard the warnings growing up. We see the stats on the nightly news or Internet and shake our heads in disbelief when another person’s life is cut tragically short by substance abuse. But do we really understand this deadly disease?
Addiction deaths are on the rise – in a big way. Drug overdose is now the No. 1 cause of accidental death here in the US. Despite that dire news, we are learning more about addiction every day and getting better and more skilled at treating this epidemic. Even with all the press coverage and research, though, there are myths and misconceptions that remain:
Addiction Is a Weakness – Actually, addiction is a disease, and no amount of willpower will change an addicted person’s brain chemistry. Addicted people behave the way they do because the reward center in their brain’s limbic system insists they need more drugs. That is hard to overcome by wishing it away.
If They Cared, They’d Get Clean – It’s not about not wanting to get clean or not caring enough to stay sober. Addiction causes the brain’s reward-related drives to reprioritize. That’s why they’re willing to risk family, career – even life itself — to continue to use drugs and alcohol.
I Can Reason Them Well – If we accept that addiction is a brain disease and that abusing drugs or alcohol alters the brain chemistry, why do we expect clear, rational thought from someone struggling with addiction? The truth is, only 10 percent of addicted individuals see their need for treatment and get help themselves. Others agree to treatment only after suffering negative consequences such as a DUI or an intervention by loved ones.
Addicts Are Bad People – The addicted may neglect their primary relationships or even lie, cheat and steal to continue their drug use. Even though they know at some level that these behaviors are wrong and something they would never do if sober, they can’t change or stop. In fact, the shame, guilt and hopelessness from this may lead to even worse drug abuse. This is where we need to separate the disease from the individual. Addiction can make good people do things we find reprehensible, but that’s who they are. Their true character is being overshadowed by their problem.
If you or someone you love needs treatment for an addiction and co-occurring disorder, call The Canyon at the toll-free number on our homepage. Someone is there to take your call 24 hours a day and answer any questions you have about treatment, financing or insurance.