Dispelling a myth and misconception

There is a post that shows up on my Facebook News Feed and typically is posted by some friends who believe this misconception.

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This is a continual myth and misconception that comes from an unempathetic and very judgmental perception regarding those individuals who suffer substance use disorder. This article will provide a break down and response to the content of this. I ask you to thoughtfully review my response, watch the videos provided, and draw your own conclusions to this and determine whether or not substance use (addiction) is a matter of choice, or, a brain disease of reward and motivation.

  1. Drug addiction is a choice it is not a disease

This is the main premise that the content attempts to justify. Without any facts, empirical evidence, or any reference to supporting medical research in the field of substance use disorder.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a disease. The Short and Long definition that provides scientific and empirical data to understand how it is considered a disease.

2. Before you stuck that needle in your arm or popped those pills in your mouth you did not have an addiction. You created a habit that became habitual and now you are dependent on the drugs. 

On the surface, this is agreeable. The evidence shows that substance use disorder is not only a learned behavior, it also shows that the development of addiction is much more complicated than what this statement insinuates.

First, substance use disorder typically begins between 12 and 25 years of age. Second, characteristic symptoms of addiction involve withdrawal from substances, increased in tolerance for the need of more substance, the use of substance to manage withdrawal symptoms, and intense cravings that are evoked by stimulus (people, places, things and events).

Dr. Nora Volkow on how substance use is a brain disease:

3. Addiction is a choice, allowing addicts to believe it’s a disease only enables them and gives them an excuse to feel sorry for themselves and continue doing what they are doing. 

There is no evidence to support this claim. Because substance use is a disease of choice, it allows individuals, who are suffering, the ability to engage in treatment and develop healthier coping skills. Assists them in managing withdrawals, and engages them to be empowered to move toward a life that is healthier. The cause of addiction is the repetitive of cravings. This does not excuse the individual suffering from substance use; it provides hope that they are able to move past what is causing their own suffering.

4. I don’t feel the least bit sorry for any of you. Tough love is going to make America great again. 

This is the judgmental and critical assessment. Tough love is not going to make America great again. Understanding how individual people suffer because of substance use disorder, how we are able to respond (as a society), and provide the needed support to assist people in overcoming their substance use disorder is what will greatly impact American Society.

People who are suffering from substance use do not want us to feel sorry for them. They want us to understand them. Want to hear them out, and to assist them in supporting their efforts and movement through recovery. This begins with empathy and compassion. It begins with putting aside and not perpetuating this type of myth and misconception that substance use is not a disease but a choice. It is putting aside our own judgments and misperceptions regarding substance use disorder and those suffering.