There are many stereotypes associated with addiction. Addiction affects people of all types. Many individuals that struggle with addiction hold jobs, have families and maintain rich relationships with the people they are close to. There is no such thing as a “typical” addict. For this reason, it is important to understand the common misconceptions around addiction and know that while each case varies, there are many preconceived notions about addicts that can negatively impact those struggling with addiction and the loved ones who care for them. Here are four common misconceptions about addiction:

  1. Addicts are mostly men

While men are in fact more likely to become addicts and develop substance abuse [1], women also struggle with addiction and are more likely to develop dependence on the substances they are addicted to. In fact, the number of fatal overdoses in women to prescription painkillers rose 400% between the years of 1999 and 2010 [2]. Recent studies have found that women are the fastest growing segment for substance abuse in the US. Addiction does not prefer any one gender [3].

  1. Once an addict, always an addict

Addiction is as much about habits and patterns as it is about the abuse of a substance. When an addict is able to seek treatment and practice continued recovery practices, addiction can be overcome. The longer a person makes a certain substance a part of their daily lifestyle, the harder it may be to quit. However, with the right treatment and continued care, complete recovery is possible. Recovered addicts can choose to develop healthy patterns and habits instead of unhealthy addictions to substances.

  1. Addicts lack willpower

Addiction can often be a form of pain management. In some cases, addiction can start as a means to legitimately deal with physical pain. Many addictive substances have an emotional soothing or numbing effect. For physical ailment, a person can go to a doctor and have x-rays and other tests performed to determine what is wrong with them physically and how it can be fixed. Understanding psychological and emotional pain is much more difficult. When an individual can’t get treatment for the psychological or emotional pain they are in, it can lead to self medication that results in addiction. Addictions are complex and are formed for a number different reasons. The causes for addiction are far from the just the inability to say ‘no’.

  1. All addiction should be treated the same way

Addiction is not the same for everyone. Some people who suffer from an addiction to alcohol drink every day, while others only drink occasionally. Just as every addict is slightly different, so is the right treatment program for them. Inpatient treatment programs can work well for some people while others can use professional therapy and counseling or support groups as a path to recovery.

Misconceptions about addiction are carried by non-addicts and addicts alike. Many times these misconceptions can keep people struggling with addiction from getting treatment in the first place. For non-addicts, having incorrect views about addiction and recovery can make it difficult for people struggling with addiction to acclimate after treatment. For these reasons, it is important to recognize these misconceptions and work to adjust them.