Myths of Drug Addiction
Throughout much of the last century, scientists studying drug abuse labored in the shadows of powerful myths and misconceptions about the nature of addiction.
Today, thanks to science, our views and our responses to drug abuse have changed dramatically. Groundbreaking discoveries about the brain have revolutionized our understanding of drug addiction, enabling us to respond quickly and effectively to the problem. Discoveries in the science of addiction have led to advances in drug abuse treatment that help people stop abusing drugs and resume their productive lives.
Myth #1: The addict must want help or hit rock bottom.
Fact: Waiting for an addict to hit bottom is a deadly risk, many lives are ruined on the way down. Family members, employers, insurers, friends, children and stranger’s well-being and life are in jeopardy depending on the addict’s behavior. Many addicts will respond to a loving intervention and recovery plan. It is imperative that loved ones make a commitment to stop enabling, stop tolerating active addiction. Loved ones must intervene and get the addict into the treatment that they need. Family members and loved ones need their own recovery plan, separate from the addict.
Myth #2: You can’t get addicted because you received the opiates from a doctor.
Fact: Many people get addicted to opiates because they had an injury or chronic pain. Anyone who uses opiates for an extended time can become addicted. The conceptual model has been that an addicted person seeks treatment, completes an assessment, receives treatment, lasting weeks or months and is discharged, often without the sentinel effect of ongoing monitoring as would normally be done for a challenging health situation. For treatment to be successful long term today’s society requires quick results therefore we help the brain adapt to the absence of the opiates quickly in a matter of hours rather than weeks or months. Doing this has a calming effect on body systems to help patients focus on counseling and other psychotherapies related to long term abstinence.
Myth #3: Some opiates are different, or not as bad.
Fact: Nerve cells and neurotransmitters are all affected by opiates exactly the same. All opiates are indeed similar. Vicodin, Heroin, Suboxone, Oxycotin, and Methadone is the same chemical family. Prescription opioids act on the same receptors as heroin and are highly addictive. Buprenorphine is considered a partial opiate agonist. It works in the brain on the opiate receptors and works just like other opiates. It can be understood as a very low powered opiate – and like all other opiates – it is addictive. Because Suboxone contains buprenorphine, it is also an opiate, and is addictive like any other opiate. Opiate use cause changes in neurotransmitters. Every nerve cell in your body communicates through neurotransmitters that are sent and received between individual nerve cells. Parts of the brain control functions like emotions, motor control, thought processing and language. When the neurotransmitters fail to work, serious problems arise. When addicted to opiates, nerve cells specifically devoted to producing and regulating pleasure work overtime. This impacts the body’s reward system which encourages repeat actions. Long-term use means that neurotransmitters are destroyed, lost or overproduced. Mood or behavior is most affected, because of a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Stop the myths, addiction is a treatable disease.
Imagine if we began to treat diabetes in a system such as we have designed for addiction.
First, insurance would restrict treatment only to the truly diabetic, those who had lost toes or some of their vision. Prevention and early interventions so common in primary care would not be reimbursed and thus rarely practiced in such a system.
Particularly vexing is that so many of those who so obviously need care deny the existence of a problem or the need for treatment. Those who finally enter care usually have serious, chronic addiction, many co-occurring problems and a guarded prognosis.
Discoveries in the science of addiction have led to advances in drug abuse treatment that help people stop abusing drugs and resume their productive lives.