3 myths about Addiction: BUSTED

Tessa Burns MartinAddiction, Tessa Burns

Written by Tessa Burns Martin, Owner, Registered Psychologist

There are several myths about addiction that if you listen to them, they may impact your treatment. Please read the myths and see if you have believed any of them and find out the reality.

Myth #1

The substances that individuals get addicted to are naturally addictive and if used regularly, everyone would become addicted.

Reality: Studies have repeatedly shown that merely using an addictive substance for an extended period of time will not automatically cause addiction. Otherwise, every person who has ever had a surgery and been prescribed painkillers would become an addict. But we frequently see people who take these medications and then who are able to subsequently stop.

Also, as Gabor Mate has often pointed out, many of the things that can become addictions are not substances, but are instead behaviours, like shopping or gambling.

Finally, if it were merely about the substance, all we would have to do would be to weather through the withdrawal period and then you would never desire to use. Since the substance does not impact your addiction, it is more important to understand the purpose of the addiction so that you can find behaviours that may serve you better.

Myth #2

If you are struggling with an addiction, you need to attend an inpatient rehabilitation program if you are serious about recovery.

Reality: There is no one way to recover from addiction. If you have been unsuccessful with one program or if you do not resonate with the mandates of a program, then it does not mean that you are hopeless. It just means that you need to find a program that resonates with your values.

Some people do not like the wording of the AA steps. Others struggle with the idea of being away for 30 days or more. Luckily we are in an age where you can get support in an inpatient or outpatient program. Some programs will use an AA program and others may use other modalities, like SMART recovery or mindfulness meditation.

If you are struggling with an addiction or if you have a loved one who is struggling with an addiction, you can discuss with a professional your needs and they should be able to work with you or refer you to the appropriate person.

The only time you may look at inpatient programs as your only option would be if you need support medically as you detox. You should discuss with your doctor about any health concerns prior to cutting back or abstaining to ensure that your body will be able to manage the change without medical intervention.

Myth #3

You need to quit drinking before you can begin any treatment program.

Reality: In a conference that I attended on modern approaches to addiction, Dr. Lance Dodes pointed out that you would not expect a person to no longer feel depressed before coming for support so it is unfair to expect a person struggling with addiction to manage their addiction before they get support.

Thus, effective counselling will explore your reasons for using, even if you have not been able to maintain abstinence. You can discuss with your therapist whether you will be working on abstinence or if you would have more success with a harm reduction approach. Just like the above point, there is not only one way to move towards recovery so an effective plan will be individualized to your circumstances and history.

After all, everyone came to their addictive behaviour differently so it would make sense that we need to address the treatment differently.

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