There’s No Such Thing as a Typical Addict: Busting Some Stereotypical Myths

It’s difficult for those who have never struggled with addiction to understand the complexity of the problem. One result is that myths and misconceptions about addicts spread like wildfire, which is especially unfortunate given that these myths can harm recovery. Read on to find out about a few of the most common stereotypes about addicts to learn the truth.

Addiction Is a Choice

A lot of people assume that those who struggle with substance use disorders could simply exercise some willpower and make better life choices, but this just isn’t true. Before drugs or alcohol even enter the picture, some people are more predisposed to developing a substance use disorder than others. Anyone can become addicted to drugs or alcohol through prolonged use, though, and once that happens, it changes the person’s brain, altering everything from impulse control to normal pleasure responses.

Pretending that addicts choose to continue using drugs or alcohol every day is extremely harmful. It makes people struggling to improve their lives feel like there is something wrong with them for needing help. Instead of falling prey to the insidious myth that addicts simply need to make better choices, check out the options available from Harris House to get help.

Addicts Deserve to Be Punished

This myth is related to the misconception that addiction is a choice. Once people realize that addiction is a serious, life-changing, and potentially fatal disease, it’s easy to see that those suffering from this disease deserve help, not punishment. Unfortunately, modern society hasn’t caught up with science yet, and addicts are often treated like terrible people who deserve to be punished.

While it’s true that addiction can drive even otherwise good people to do awful things, jail and social ostracism are not the answers. Providing people with compassionate care is the only way to help them get better.

Prescription Drug Abuse is Different from Illegal Drug Abuse

The use and abuse of legal prescription drugs carry less of a stigma than illegal drug use, but both categories of substances are addictive. Just because medications like prescription painkillers, ADHD drugs, and anti-anxiety medications can be legally prescribed by a doctor, that doesn’t mean they’re safer than street drugs. When people take these medications improperly, it poses the same risk of addiction.

The fact that these two categories of drugs are viewed differently is dangerous for two reasons. First, it makes people less cautious about using prescription drugs. Secondly, it also makes people who do become addicted to medications originally prescribed by their doctors less likely to seek help.

People Only Get Addicted to One Substance

Experts used to believe that addicts chose one substance and stuck to it. Today, they recognize that polysubstance dependence is actually very common, especially among adolescents, young adults, and those who struggle with mental illness. Treating polysubstance abuse can be a challenge, especially when addicts also have underlying health disorders, but it’s a challenge that more rehab facilities and doctors than ever are beginning to confront on a regular basis.

The Bottom Line

It doesn’t do anyone any good to continue perpetuating unfounded myths about substance abuse. Addicts are, first and foremost, sick people who need help to get better and resume their normal lives. They shouldn’t be punished for something they can’t control or be made to feel less than human. Instead of being judged, they deserve help.


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