The Myths about the addicted stigmatize them and can sabotage interventions.
Honest, courageous and insightful aren’t words typically used to describe drug addicts. But if given the chance, many addicts end up developing these qualities and contributing to society in a way they never imagined possible. These successes occur in spite of major obstacles, from the ever-present threat of relapse to the pervasive stereotypes addicts encounter along the way. Even with three decades of myth-busting research behind us, some of the most damaging beliefs about addiction remain:
Dr. David Sack is an addiction psychiatrist and mental health expert from America. He currently serves as the CEO of Elements Behavioral Health, which is a network of addiction treatment centers spread across the US. He is a sought after media expert who has shared his knowledge on outlets such as Good Morning America, Dateline NBC, E! News and many others. He also contributes to the Huffington Post, PsychCentral and Psychology Today.
Editor: Arman Ahmed
#1 Addicts are bad people who deserve to be punished.
Man or woman, rich or poor, young or old, if a person develops an addiction, there’s a widespread assumption that they are bad, weak-willed or immoral. The hostility toward addicts takes a form unprecedented among other chronic illnesses, prompting harsh legal sanctions and judgments like, “Let them kill themselves, they asked for it.”
It is true that many addicts do reprehensible things. Driven by changes in the brain brought on by prolonged drug use, they lie, cheat and steal to maintain their habit. But good people do bad things, and sick people need treatment – not punishment – to get better.
Watch a video by Dr Sadaqat on the topic of how to appropriately deal with addicts
Dr. Sadaqat Ali talks about Dealing with an addict
#2 Addiction is a choice.
Recovery isn’t as simple as exercising enough willpower. People do not choose to become addicted any more than they choose to have cancer. Genetics makes up about half the risk of addiction; environmental factors such as family life, upbringing and peer influences make up the other half.
Brain imaging studies show that differences in the brain are both a cause and effect of addiction. Long before drugs enter the picture, there are neurobiological differences in people who become addicted compared to those who do not become addicted. Once an individual starts using drugs, prolonged drug use changes the structure and function of the brain, making it difficult to control impulses, feel pleasure from natural rewards like sex or food, and focus on anything other than getting and using drugs.
Watch a video by Dr Sadaqat in which he describes the causes and symptoms of addiction.
Dr. Sadaqat Ali talks about addiction: causes, symptoms and treatment