Addiction: Let’s Be Clear About It
Four Myths About About Addiction
The thing about myths: they’re enduring, harmful and serve only to assign blame and shame to addicts.
#1 ADDICTION IS NOT A DISEASE…
Perhaps addiction isn’t quite the same as a host of illnesses that people think of when they hear the term disease, however, addiction is very much a disease caused by a combination of behavioral, environmental and genetic risk factors. My risk factors differ from your risk factors, just as my brain chemistry differs from your brain chemistry. The bottom line: you may choose to use a substance and become addicted and I may choose to use that same substance and never become addicted. Addiction is a chemical issue, not a moral one.
#2 ADDICTS USE THE DISEASE CONCEPT OF ADDICTION AS AN EXCUSE TO KEEP USING…
The word “disease” doesn’t imply that an addict need not take responsibility for his or her illness. As is the case with any other disease or affliction, addicts can and must take responsibility for their recovery. Addiction is a progressive, chronic disease—but it is also treatable. Addicts aren’t responsible for being sick, but they are responsible for helping themselves to get well.
#3 ADDICTS ARE BAD PEOPLE…
Addiction isn’t about bad and good … it’s about sick and well. Yes, addicts make terrible decisions to feed their addiction … they often commit criminal acts and cause terrific pain to those in their path. They can also recover, change, attempt to right their wrongs and become productive members of society.
#4 MEDICATION-ASSISTED TREATMENT (MAT) JUST REPLACES ONE DRUG WITH ANOTHER…
The goal is not to substitute medications for opioids indefinitely, but to manage withdrawal and/or block euphoria associated with illicit drug use with the eventual, long-term objective of discontinuing medications entirely. Essentially MAT serves to arm addicts with the immediate means to stop using drugs—drugs that have become more deadly than ever before.
Fatal overdoses more than doubled in both 2016 and 2017 in Allegheny County versus 2014.* Butler, Fayette, Lawrence and Westmoreland Counties also saw overdose deaths surpass 2016’s record-breaking overdose numbers.** The reason: illicit, deadly fentanyl.
MAT, a combination of therapy and FDA-approved medication, is currently the most effective intervention to relieve symptoms of opioid withdrawal while supporting addicts with tools and resources to move towards long-term recovery.***
Look for more addiction and recovery topics from our experts soon.
*Allegheny County Office of the Medical Examiner.
***The PEW Charitable Trusts
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