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Five Myths About Substance Use Disorders

Five Myths About Substance Use Disorders

We’re going to start with some statistics that are both upsetting and eye-opening: In 2019, more than 70,000 people died of drug overdoses as opposed to fewer than 20,000 just 20 years prior, in 1999. This is the extreme result of a substance use disorder and doesn’t tell the rest of the story — the relationships ruined, the careers lost, the families broken apart.

Despite statistics such as these, there’s still far too much misinformation surrounding substance use disorders, and the team here at Northshore Family Practice wants to do our part to set the record straight about this very serious problem.

To that end, we’re reviewing common myths about drug use disorders so you can approach the issue better informed.

1. It’s a lifestyle problem, not a medical one

Way back in 1956, the American Medical Association declared that alcoholism was an illness and followed this up in 1987 with the declaration that addiction, in general, is an illness.

Unfortunately, too much of society still doesn’t see it this way, and feels that lifestyle changes are all that’s needed to beat addiction. While lifestyle changes certainly play a role, a drug use disorder is an illness like any other and needs to be properly managed and treated by medical professionals.

2. Drug addiction is a choice

One of the hallmarks of the disease of addiction is that choice is no longer available. With addiction, your brain rewires itself to receive more of your drug of choice, destroying your ability to simply choose not to use.

Uncontrollable cravings, the inability to quit, the anxiety — all of these trap you into a prison of using just to satisfy the new neural pathways in your brain.

In other words, addiction isn’t a matter of a weak will, it’s brain physiology.

3. Addiction and dependence are one in the same

The reason why we use the terminology, “Drug (or substance) use disorder,” is that it better encompasses two very different aspects of the illness: addiction and dependency. Addiction can be simply described as the disease of the brain while dependency describes your body’s dependence on the substance, which is why it goes into withdrawal when it’s taken away.

In our experience, the two are separate enough that you can have the addiction component without the dependency side of the equation. 

4. A drug use disorder means daily use

While many people with substance use disorders are daily users, you can still have this illness if you’re a regular problem user. For example, you may be clean all week, but every weekend you go on a bender, during which you’re unable to stop using.

5. You have to want to quit

There’s a school of thought that you can’t force someone into treatment and that they need to come to a place where they want it on their own. Yes, being a willing participant in recovery is helpful, but most people need a push, whether it’s from the family or the courts.

Remember, when you have a substance use disorder, your decisions aren’t your own, which means seeking help isn’t where your brain is pointing you. In these instances, it can be very helpful to have pressure from outside sources that help push you in the right direction.

And that direction should be straight to our door, where we offer comprehensive substance use disorder treatments, from detox and medication-assisted treatments to ongoing recovery and counseling.

To get the facts about drug use disorders, contact our office in Bothell, Washington, to set up a consultation.

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