The 6 myths of addiction
Just a quick delve into the world of addiction. By the way, if you're an addict, whether you are actively in the addiction, trying to get clean, completely dry or just in denial (but a bit curious as to why your life is a bit effed up) I salute you. I'm holding out my hand. I'm not judging you and I care about you. I know the slow death of dying alcohol will be worse than anything other humans or illness can inflict on you, and I know the sudden stopping of your heart from a drug overdose could just be around the corner for you. Or that bucket of KFC that sedates you into not having to deal with the world, starts a vicious cycle you just can't escape from. I get it. We all want to switch off. We all hate feeling, feelings of darkness, sadness loneliness, boredom and all of the above hits the off switch for a while. But, they'll kill you.
Addiction is something I'm passionate about. I wish I had known this earlier, I would have loved to have a had a career in this field. Some of the best people I have ever met are addicts. Some of the bravest people I have ever met are addicts. Some of the most successful, most intelligent people I have ever spoken to are addicts. And the reason I'm writing this is because I am so sick and tired of hearing the word 'junkie' thrown around. I see it constantly on Facebook stories about drugs addicts dying. Just a bunch of junkies - let them die, throw away the key. This type of comment makes me want to simultaneously scream and sob at the same time. There is such a lack of education around 'junkies' and why they are that way. It's not a case of one day just deciding to 'ruin their life' and picking up a bottle or a needle. It's not a whimsical choice that they make just to piss people off or take pleasure in. Granted the first couple of times (or years if it alcohol) may have been fun but in the cycle of misery most addicts are just trying to feel normal. Not trip out and party all day long.
Think of how you feel about George Best if your remember him. He was a famous footballer and rebel, a rock star on and off the pitch. He was also a raging alcoholic, so much so that he needed a liver transplant. Which, he got. He also drank again after he got the transplant - swiftly deteriorated and died. The vitriol from the public was palpable, and yes I understand this. Someone donated a liver, and he abused it. What kills me is the lack of understanding as to why he did such a stupid thing (and yes it was fundamentally a stupid thing to do) - hear me out though. He got the liver replaced but the problem wasn't really in that organ. The problem was his brain. He never got the help to fix the root of the problem. He also was in an industry and culture whereby he was the 'hero' that everyone wanted to drink with and buy a pint for. One of the best footballers we had ever seen, let's buy him a pint! I could just about guarantee those same people would have judged him when he drank his poor new liver to death. Addiction starts way before the first drink. It starts with abuse as a child, poverty, lack of education and a culture that loves to glorify alcohol. There's then judgement when you are addicted, zero compassion and the opinion that you're just selfish and stupid. What if your not? What if you're just so hurt by the world that you need something to help you switch off those emotions that you hate to feel. What if you know no other way to cope? What if you're so lonely that a substance makes you feel less that way? What if you're so sad and tired that just to get some sleep at night you pop pills? What if when your two pills don't work anymore and you need 4 pills, then 6?
See the cycle? Right in the middle of that, you're calling this sad, lonely, depressed human soul, a junkie, worthless - deserves to die.
Addiction treatments overwhelmingly fail because of how we view addiction. Correcting common misconceptions about it can be the first step towards improving the social support and medical treatment systems for those struggling with their addictions.
And my first step (if I was in charge of the world lol) would be this - stop calling them junkies. Just stop. Imagine if instead, you loved them. Imagine if they saw that? Imagine the difference we could make.
Here's 6 myths about addiction I'm going to bust while I'm here:
Myth No. 1: Good people don’t use drugs, bad people do.
Remember the war on drugs? Remember how well it worked by telling kids to 'just say no'? It didn't, it was a stupid campaign and remember this...By moralising the choice to use or not, we’re alienating our kids right at the start. This isn’t a question of good and bad, it’s a question of health and safety. If we keep this in mind, we can better help our kids grow up without succumbing to drugs and continuing to use, trying new and more dangerous drugs, and even become addicted.
Myth No. 2: People who get addicted are weak and without morals.
I don't know how I feel about the research that addiction is a disease, I'm just not sure I really see it that way but, one thing I do know is - This isn’t about character. People who think that addicts are weak assume that will-power is enough for a person to stop using. That's absolutely not true and it is sooo dangerous to keep on believing this. Dependence is real, not a choice, biologically rooted, and therefore addicts must be treated. It’s critical that people understand that addiction is a serious illness, usually chronic and progressive and often fatal. Treat your addicts with compassion, anything else will most likely push them further down into the depths of hell.
Myth No. 3: Addicts must hit bottom before they can be treated.
This myth kills addicts. Don’t wait for an addict to hit bottom; help them as soon as the problem is evident and causing issues. This one is important to me, mostly because I have people in my life I'm concerned about. They may not be homeless and on deaths door but I know, in my heart, they're on their way. Addicts are often told that they must hit bottom, but they need to know that at any point in life you can get better and thrive. Many people die before they hit a bottom. We must reject this archaic belief.
Myth No. 4: You don’t treat drug problems with drugs.
Wrong again. Many addiction treatments can and should include medication. A variety of medications, when prescribed, monitored, and adjusted by a good psychiatrist, in combination with behavioral therapies, dramatically up the odds of successful treatment. Take me for example. Quit booze, I got better but I still wasn't right. I'm now medicated and a completely different person. Treating the underlying cause, is so important.
For many addicts, the impact of medications can be profound — even lifesaving. And for addicts with concurrent mental illnesses, drugs can be essential.
Myth No. 5: The only way for addicts to stop using is by going to AA meetings.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and the Twelve Steps have helped countless addicts get and stay sober. It’s a profound program that works for many people. But it doesn’t work for a majority of addicts.
People must know that there are other treatments that are effective. Some are used in concert with AA, but AA isn’t a requirement to managing addiction. When treatment programs insist that patients must practice the Steps, they can alienate some addicts, often teenagers. And people who when they hear the word 'god' they immediately switch off. There are other ways, trust me.
Myth No. 6: Drug and alcohol problems are unsolvable.
We’ve failed at solving alcohol and drug problems not because it’s impossible to do so, but we’ve been focusing on the wrong things. The main problem is that we’ve treated drug use as a criminal problem and drinkers and 'junkies' as morally bankrupt.
Starting with understanding that addicts aren't bums on the street. They are all around you, I promise. Seeing them as people who hurt, really deeply on the inside, helps you to realise they are not doing this as a choice and/or to 'have fun'. Being kind and compassionate to people with a problem goes so much further than you know. And, stopping the use of the word 'junkie' or 'alkie' will go a long way in making us feel deathly ashamed of what we're hiding. Maybe then, we'll step into the light. When we do, we'll be right there waiting to help other addicts do the same.
At ease x