This month, TFI Talks is commemorating Alcohol Awareness Month.
Every year, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) sponsors Alcohol Awareness month in an effort to increase public understanding of alcohol, to reduce the stigma of alcoholism, and to draw attention to the impact that alcoholism can have on kids, families, couples and communities.
With a subject as complicated as alcohol and alcohol/substance abuse, there are bound to be myths and misunderstandings. Today we’re working to dispel some of the more common myths.
Myth: Alcoholism or substance misuse/addiction is a moral failing or lack of willpower on the part of the drinker or user.
Reality: Addiction is a disease—it’s chronic and treatable. Drug abuse changes the way the brain works, resulting in compulsive behavior focused on drug seeking and use, despite sometimes devastating consequences—the essence of addiction. From there, we are starting to look at addiction treatment the way we would look at treatment for other chronic diseases such as heart disease or cancer. When folks get diagnosed with these diseases, we do not shame them or withhold treatment until they “prove” they are ready the way we have done with individuals who seek treatment for substance use disorders.
Myth: Alcoholism or substance misuse/addiction is something that people engage in because they are weak, ignorant or selfish.
Reality: Substance misuse/abuse/dependence can be looked as a kind of coping mechanism; an unsustainable, maladaptive coping mechanism, but not something that people engage in because they are weak, ignorant or selfish. Many, if not most, clients who seek help in changing their relationship with substances who wasn’t trying to manage pain, shame or low self-esteem with their substance use.
Myth: Addicts need to hit “rock bottom” before they are receptive to any form of treatment.
Reality: When we decide someone isn’t ready for treatment because they have yet hit their rock bottom, we assume we know what their rock bottom looks like. This myth also puts us as concerned parties into a passive role in thinking that we just need to wait until that rock bottom event happens before we step in to help. I think there are ways to intervene much earlier in the progression of addiction where a better outcome is possible than if we watch and wait for the “rock bottom.”