When was the last time you Googled something and the answer you read turned out to be completely false? We’ve all been there. Sometimes a Google search yields some pretty inaccurate results, and unfortunately, those results can really cause damage. The stigma around many addiction myths continues to be potent and can truly prevent someone from entering treatment and achieving long-term recovery. Here are five of those myths, and truths that need to be known.
Drugs ‘fry your brain.’
In the 1980s, a widely played public service announcement stated “Drugs Fry Your Brain.” The ad implies that, after prolonged drug use, drugs can make it impossible to do anything because your brain is so far gone. This is simply not the case. Research shows that long-term drug use primarily affects the parts of the brain wired to addiction itself to alter cognitive functions such as emotions, memory, habits, cravings, and impulses. Addiction never leads to a complete shutdown. Therefore, full recovery is always possible.
Addiction is genetic.
Addiction is genetic. That much is not a myth. But there’s a keyword that needs to be used in this sentence: addiction is partly genetic. Researchers and doctors know that all addiction has a genetic component, but many are still grappling with the nature vs. nurture question. However, recent studies mostly argue that the genetic risk for addiction is about 50%. There are many other factors that can shift an individual’s tendency for addiction, particularly parental drug use, peer pressure, and poor coping skills.
I am too old to get sober.
For some people, the ‘drugs fry your brain’ stereotype influences one overriding factor preventing rehab: since I’ve used for years, my brain is already fried and I can’t get sober. This is not a fact at all; it’s a matter of conditioning. If we believe something enough, the line between fact and thought blurs to become a new reality. Therefore, older people, who may be experiencing increased physical maladies and life changes, could lean towards making up more of a case of recovery.
Family members of an elderly individual that is struggling with substance abuse may also be reluctant to help them seek treatment because of other stigmatizing myths; “drinking is one of the last few pleasures left for the elderly,” or “they are too old to change.” These myths need to be challenged. The truth is, successful recovery can occur at any age.
I’ve never injected drugs through my veins. I’m not that bad.
“I’m not as bad as ___________” is one of the ways many people escape from their problems. The same goes for addiction. Many addicts compare themselves to worse scenarios so they can avoid confronting the truth. However, drugs are drugs, and although intravenous injection adds a whole new set of potential health problems to the list of maladies, the method of drug intake doesn’t make anyone less of an addict.
A life in recovery will be boring.
Most people in recovery will tell you how they felt during their addiction…and the true, uncomplicated joy and gratitude they feel now that they’re in recovery. The challenge of attaining pure joy and happiness is far from boring! The road to recovery isn’t easy, but it is worth it. The ability to feel those emotions in their true forms is more powerful than any drug.
“Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction” The National Institute on Drug Abuse
“Five damaging myths about addiction” CNN