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Debunking the myths surrounding addiction: 5 facts about addiction everyone should know

addiction and willpower

Most of us, when we hear the words ‘addiction’ or ‘addict ‘experience an immediate shift in thinking, in the sense that what we think and the mental imagery that goes along with it becomes limited. 

Substance misuse. Relapse. Addict. Codependency. The list of adjectives appears to be just as endless as the myths themselves, which, for the most part, are largely inaccurate and based on what we think we know about addiction rather than what we know to be true.

Fortunately, there is a vast amount of literature surrounding the topic of addiction in most libraries and also through a variety of online sources.

However, any awareness around the underlying trauma that often lies at the ‘core’ of those battling lifelong addiction tends to be finite.

Essentially, what lies beneath almost all addiction is unresolved trauma, something that even the sufferer themselves might not be aware of. Turning to alcohol or drugs is often a coping mechanism that many people use to ‘push down’ unpleasant feelings and emotions. 

In addition, there are a variety of myths surrounding addiction that can so often add to the stigma that already exists. Below are some of the more common myths that you may have encountered before:

Addiction Myth 1: “Relapse equals failure.”

#Fact: It’s common for people in recovery to become discouraged when they relapse. 

Often though, when relapse occurs, it’s usually a sign that the current treatment methods and ways of thinking aren’t working as well and might need to be reviewed.

Addiction (in fact, mental health in general) is a chronic illness, similar to that of a physical ailment, and should be treated in the same way as cancer and heart disease.

Relapse is, by definition, a recurrence of symptoms which means that those in recovery are likely to require lifelong management to stay in recovery. 

It’s also important to remember just how much work it takes to change deeply embedded habits and behaviours, all of which form a big part of the treatment when it comes to rehabilitation.

A recurrence doesn’t mean that previous treatments failed just because a change in treatment is required either (because to some degree, progress would have still been made). And as the great Les Brown once said: “a setback is a setup for a comeback”, and this couldn’t be any more accurate, especially for those in recovery.

Addiction Myth 2: “Only a certain ‘type’ of person is at risk of addiction.”

7 signs that you’re enabling an addict

#Fact: Addiction is non-discriminatory and can affect anyone, including your neighbour who drives a really expensive car and seems to have life all ‘worked out’. Age, race and income are also insignificant factors when it comes to addiction. 

According to the charity Action on Addiction, 1 in 3 people suffer from some form of addictive behaviour. And addiction can come in many forms too such as gambling, drinking, online gaming and drug use.

No-one is exempt from the clutches of addiction, and it appears there is no way to tell who will be inflicted.

Addiction Myth 3: “Prescription drugs are not addictive.”

pills and addiction

#Fact: Unfortunately, prescription drug addiction is every bit as real as any other drug addiction (and just as serious).

According to the UK addiction Treatment Centre (UKAT), prescription drugs are just as addictive as other drugs, but people often assume that because the medication has been prescribed by a doctor, that it must be harmless and non-addictive, but in reality, this is not the case.

In the UK, the prescription drugs deemed to be the most addictive are: 

  • Antidepressants
  • Weight loss pills
  • Opiates (including Hydrocodone, Fentanyl and Morphine)
  • Ritalin (medication for ADHD)

One way to find out if there is some sort of prescription drug addiction problem is when a patient takes their medication in ways that go beyond their doctors’ instructions. 

Unfortunately, nowadays, there is also easier access to certain prescription drugs in comparison to previous years due to the emergence of the black market. Fortunately, though, there is help and support available for prescription drug addiction, and rehabilitation centres are more than equipped in dealing with a wide range of addiction issues.

Addiction Myth 4: “It’s easy to quit an addiction. All it takes is willpower.”

#Fact: As well as it being a mental process, addiction also produces physical symptoms. When someone goes cold turkey, for example, they often experience physical withdrawal symptoms (as well as emotional).

Addiction is so multi-faceted, and the stigma associated with addiction is usually what prevents a lot of people from seeking the help they need.

The point of substance addiction, for example, is for the person to alter their mind somewhat and how can one make a rational decision about recovery when the chemistry in the brain is impaired?

Addiction can become a vicious cycle, and while having willpower is important, there are so many more variables involved. 

Addiction Myth 5: “Rehabilitation doesn’t work.”

#Fact: Rehabilitation aims to help individuals to overcome addiction. Effective rehabilitation programs focus on both the physical and emotional elements associated with addiction, such as past trauma.

And this largely involves challenging the coping mechanisms that people often use to avoid dealing with unpleasant memories (which can sometimes lead to addiction).

12 Step programs are very effective in dealing with addiction as they offer a combination of therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Along with many other healing benefits, CBT focuses on dysfunctional thinking patterns that often trigger destructive thoughts and behaviours, hence why CBT is a widely used therapy in the treatment of addiction. 

Another effective therapy when treating addiction is Trauma Specific Therapy. This therapeutic approach involves a variety of techniques and can also be combined with CBT and other known therapies. 

The best rehabilitation programs offer a mixture of personalized therapy treatments designed to treat not only the addiction itself, but also the root cause. Typically, the treatments available at most rehabilitation centres are:

  • Music and Art Therapy
  • Sports and Recreation
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy
  • Group Therapy

And since the seed of addiction usually grows from unresolved traumatic experiences, any treatment focusing on long-term abstinence needs to be highly personalized to be effective.

The Program offered at Tikvah Lake Recovery includes a diverse range of therapies designed to get to the ‘core’ of addiction as well as addressing any physical symptoms, and all this is done in luxurious 5-star surroundings. 

At Tikvah Lake, we believe environmental factors play an important role in mental health, and we work hard to create a tranquil atmosphere that is designed to promote healing and long-lasting recovery.

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Adam Nesenoff

Adam Nesenoff has been working in recovery for over ten years.

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