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Myths About Substance Use Disorders

MYTH: Willpower is all one needs to beat addiction.

Silhouette of a person looking off in the distance

TRUTH: Prolonged substance use alters the way the brain works. The brain sends signals of powerful and intense cravings, which are accompanied by a compulsion to use. These brain changes make it extremely difficult to quit and often a treatment program is required.

MYTH: Those with substance use disorders (SUD) have to hit "rock bottom" before they can get help.

TRUTH: Recovery can begin at any time. Given the impacts on the brain and possible consequences of SUD, the earlier one can get treatment, the better. The longer the SUD continues, the the harder it is to treat. Get help early rather than holding out for a low point.

MYTH: Severe Substance Use Disorder is a disease; there's nothing you can do about it.

TRUTH: Most experts agree that SUD is brain-based, but that doesn't mean one is a helpless victim. The brain changes related to SUD can be treated and reversed through therapy, medication, exercise, and other treatments. As with any behavioral change, a personal commitment to change comes from within and requires a commitment to focus on the treatment plan.

MYTH: Addiction is lifelong.

TRUTH: SUD is different in every person, where some struggle for years and others manage to respond to treatment quickly. The ultimate goal is that long-term recovery will allow people to lead normal and productive lives.

MYTH: People can't force someone into treatment; if treatment is forced, it will fail.

TRUTH: Treatment doesn't have to be voluntary to be successful. People who are pressured into treatment by their family, employer, or the legal system are just as likely to benefit as those who enter treatment voluntarily. People are often able to think more clearly as they recover, which can help foster change.


Understanding Drug Use and Addiction (revised June 2018) Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  - National Institute on Drug Abuse

Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  - NIDA

Exploring Myths about Drug Abuse Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  - NIDA