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Debunking Myths About Opiate Addiction

Debunking Myths About Opiate Addiction

As opiate disorder continues to kill thousands of people in North America annually, it receives increasing amounts of mainstream media coverage. In some respects, this is a good thing – the information does help spread awareness of the dangers of opioid use, after all. In other respects, however, the coverage does quite a bit of harm to those struggling with opiate addiction. The amount of misinformation and harmful preconceptions about opiate users makes it more difficult to reach out for help and can actually increase the likelihood of an overdose. Let’s take a look at five myths about opiate addiction and what the reality truly is.

Close up of a pill bottle spilt over

1. It All Comes Down to Willpower

There is a misconception that addiction, particularly to opioids, is a character flaw and that addicts simply need “more willpower” to end the issue and return to their lives pre-addiction. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. One of the reasons this myth is so stubbornly persistent is that the definition of “opioid addiction” has become a bit jumbled with the idea of an opioid user. The two are not always one and the same. An addict will always be using opioids, yes, but not every opioid user is an addict.

There are many people who take opiates for various reasons. The substance can be incredibly helpful for individuals struggling with chronic pain, for example, as well as for those with injuries, experiencing pain immediately after a medical procedure, and a number of other legitimate uses. These individuals are prescribed an opiate by medical professionals and take the medication as prescribed. They are opioid users, and while stopping their use of the substance could potentially lead to complications, including withdrawal symptoms, they are not addicts. Their use is not out of control and they genuinely could stop using the medication as necessary.

In contrast, opioid addicts find that their use of the drug has become out of control. They can no longer stop because the substance has made permanent changes to the way the reward centers in their brains function, and “more willpower” won’t undo those tangible transformations. Opioid addiction is a medical disorder that requires professional intervention to overcome.

2. It’s Ideal to Overcome Opiate Addiction Without Medication

The second myth we’re going to cover today is the idea that treating opioid addiction without medication is not only a good idea, but actually the preferred and most effective way to overcome the addiction. This is not true for a number of reasons, however, this particular myth is actually incredibly harmful to individuals’ long-term sobriety chances. One of the reasons that medication-free opioid addiction treatment is so attractive is that similar programs are effective for people who are addicted to other substances. Individuals misusing alcohol, for example, might very well be put on a recovery plan that does not include medication – that kind of program works well for that particular addiction.

This is not the case in opiate addiction, however, and the persistent idea that medication-free treatment is the best option has far-reaching consequences. First, this belief often encourages those struggling with addiction to handle the withdrawal and detox process on their own. They believe that they can do for themselves what a medical professional could within a controlled detox center and will try to “tough out” the increasingly harmful withdrawal symptoms they face – even those that are life-threatening. The second is that medication-free programs are not effective in the long-term, and individuals who try to recover using this technique will most likely relapse. Medication-based treatment is the most effective method to long-lasting recovery.

A man and a doctor shaking hands

3. Drug Overdoses Are Normal – All the Coverage is Simply Hype

Another idea that many people have about opiate disorder is that it’s “normal”. This doesn’t mean that people believe addiction is “normal”, of course, but rather that they don’t believe there is anything particularly “special” about opioid addiction and that the mainstream coverage of the issue is simply a scare tactic. The reality is that opioid addiction is killing more people than other substances and that, because the access to the drug is so readily available via legitimate prescriptions, its use is more widespread than other drug addictions.

There truly is “something different” about opioid disorder that increases its deadliness, and an estimated 4.5 million people struggle with addiction every day.

4. Opioids Are Prescribed By Doctors – They’re “Safe”

Perhaps one of the most insidious and dangerous myths out there is that because opioids are prescribed by doctors, they are a “safe” drug to use. As the rest of this article has illustrated, that is not the case. They have legitimate uses and are sometimes the best option for certain individuals, but they are not “safe” to use simply because a doctor has prescribed them. It’s important to understand the risk of addiction when taking the drug as well as what to avoid when doing so in order to help prevent the development of addiction.

5. Opioid Addiction Only Happens to a Certain Kind of Person

Finally, the idea that addiction only happens to a specific kind of person is widespread. The exact type of person people picture when they say this varies, but it almost always means someone who is “lesser” than the individual with this belief. Addicts were already predisposed to addiction, or they simply didn’t take their medication as prescribed and lack the willpower to end their use on their own.

Addiction can strike anyone – even you. This is especially true of opioid addiction, which can stem from the use of prescription drugs. Many opioid users have legitimate prescriptions for legitimate needs who have families for which they provide and jobs that they hold down. There is no specific type of person who is susceptible to opioid addiction.

Opiate Addiction Rehab at Freedom From Addiction

If your loved one is struggling with opiate addiction, the most important thing you can do is reach out to professionals for help. The team at Freedom from Addiction can help ensure that your loved ones receive the best care possible to achieve long-term recovery success.

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One Reply to “Debunking Myths About Opiate Addiction”

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