Myth: Addiction is a moral failing
Fact: Addiction is a disease
Just as a person doesn’t choose to have an addiction, they also cannot simply choose to stop being addicted. When some of us drink alcohol, we can stop. For others, it triggers something in their brains that screams, “I need more.”
In reality, addiction is a chronic brain disease that requires intensive and thorough treatment. Once a person becomes dependent on drugs or alcohol, their brain adjusts to the excessive amount of toxins entering their body. As their body’s tolerance for the drug grows, they need to use higher and stronger doses just to function normally.
At this point in the cycle, those who suffer addiction do not enjoy the high or euphoria it once offered. This vicious cycle is almost impossible to stop without effective medical treatment.
Many wonder why those who are addicted “don’t just stop.” Those who stop cold turkey suffer unbearable withdrawal symptoms. It’s not uncommon for people to have thoughts of suicide during this phase as my son did or be at risk for dying in the process. And it was during withdrawal that my son killed himself. Withdrawal is dangerous without supervision and medical oversight and often there are tapering medications that help the process.
Relapse is not a failure but part of the process of recovery
It doesn’t feel this way to the person with substance use disorder nor does it to their loved ones and families. Relapse rates are between 40 and 60 percent according to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) which is very similar to rates of relapse with other chronic diseases like hypertension, asthma, or type I diabetes.
#MythBustingMondays will be published late Sunday nights and shared on Mondays. If you have a myth you’d like to share, use the comment section below or contact me if you want to write about a myth about mental illness, suicide, grief or addiction.