Blending Perspectives and Building Common Ground. Myths and Facts About Addiction and Treatment

04/01/1999

Myth: 

Addiction is a bad habit, the result of moral weakness and overindulgence.

Fact: 

Addiction can be a chronic, life-threatening condition, like atherosclerosis, hypertension or adult diabetes.  Addiction has roots in genetic susceptibility, social circumstance, and personal behavior.

Myth: 

If an addicted person has enough willpower, he or she can stop abusing alcohol or other drugs.

Fact: 

Most people addicted to alcohol and other drugs cannot simply stop using them, no matter how strong their inner resolve.  Most need one or more courses of structured substance abuse treatment to reduce or end their dependence on alcohol and/or other drugs.

Myth: 

Many people relapse, so treatment obviously doesn't work.

Fact: 

Like virtually any other medical treatment, addiction treatment cannot guarantee lifelong health, although nearly one-third of clients achieve abstinence from their first treatment attempt.  Relapse, often a part of the recovery process, is always possible and treatable.  Even if a person never achieves perfect abstinence, addiction treatment can reduce the number and duration of relapses, minimize related problems such as crime and poor overall health, reduce impact of parental addiction on children, improve the individual's and his or her family's ability to function in daily life, and strengthen the individual's ability to cope with the next temptation or craving.  These improvements reduce the health, social, and economic costs of addiction.