Five Misconceptions about Drug Addiction and Substance Abuse

Assortment of medication on a tableDrug addiction and substance abuse have the most misconceptions against them. Societal prejudice, improper representation in the media and other myths all contribute to painting a bleak picture and misconstruing facts. In this case, if anyone even wants to seek help, they are unable to do so because of the stigma associated with drug addiction and substance abuse.

Hesitance to seek help for drug addiction is prevalent, which has allowed a significant number of individuals struggling with drug addictions to increase drastically. In 2015, around 24.6 million people in the US alone were dealing with drug dependence and substance abuse and this number has more than doubled in recent years.

To ensure that proper help and treatment is being made, you need to let go of many of the misconceptions that could be clouding your perception.

  • Addiction is a Conscious Choice

Opioid pillsMany people believe that staying addicted is a conscious decision made by the person. They can cite examples of people who used drugs occasionally and stopped when they wanted to. On the other hand, addiction is different. It might start out voluntarily but by the point, an addiction has developed, it is not easy to stop. In fact, the individual might not even realize it until it’s too late. Just look at all the smokers around us who say they’re are going to quit, only to come back to it a few weeks later. Nicotine, the part of the cigarette that is addictive does not make it easy on them.

According to the NIDA – National Institute on Drug Abuse, an addiction is a mental disorder that changes the chemistry of the brain over time. It develops a tolerance for the substance that makes one crave more and more amounts of the drug to get the same high or reaction from it. As the brain chemistry changes, the person’s ability to control impulses are also greatly impacted. Addicted people will exhibit reckless, compulsive and harmful behaviors which are difficult for them to control, regardless of how damaging it might be to them.

  • It is a Personality Flaw

Another common misconception is that drug addiction occurs because a person’s moral compass is wrong. They must already have questionable values to make use of drugs. Fortunately, this is not true at all. Drug addiction and substance abuse doesn’t discriminate and can affect people from all socioeconomic backgrounds, regardless of their moral compass, values, mores and norms, their gender or race.

The following are some common social and psychological factors that increase the chances of drug addiction and substance abuse:

  • Environmental Factors – Peer pressure, isolation, boredom, and escapism can lead to substance abuse and drug addictions. In this instance, these are factors that are outside someone’s control.
  • Exposure – Being around individuals with addictions and substance abuse can increase the chances of someone developing an addiction because they become normalized to this aspect.
  • Other Disorders – Addiction and substance abuse are higher in people who have PTSD, depression or anxiety.
  • Trauma –Anyone who has experienced a traumatic incident might also turn to drugs as they are looking to mentally escape the trauma, even when they are in a safe environment.

Contrary to popular belief, the financial background of a person has no impact. In fact, people who earn more have surplus income to buy hard drugs like cocaine. Needless to say, we are unfortunately hearing about Hollywood stars who have succumbed a drug habit and subsequently die. Judy Garland, Heath Ledger, and River Phoenix are just a few celebrities who have paid the ultimate price from drug addiction.

  • Addiction can only happen with Hard Drugs

Media representation of addictions has led to a prevalent misconception that substance abuse can only occur with the use of hard drugs. From Requiem for a Dream and Trainspotting to Scarface you will see the protagonists struggle from one bad decision to another while using hard drugs such as cocaine, meth, heroin, and alcohol.

In reality, your prescription pain medication is more likely to create an addiction. Opioids such as hydrocodone, fentanyl, and oxycodone are known for this aspect. In fact, there is a current opioid crisis happening with over 54 million people making use of prescription medicine for non-medical reasons. Even low-risk medication is problematic as people have even developed addictions with repeated use of cough syrup for non-medical purposes.

  • Addicts are Identifiable

Another misconception is that an addict is easily identifiable. This is one of the worst misconceptions as it hinges on stereotypes. The common belief is that if someone has a criminal background or comes from a certain background, they are either addicts or on their way to becoming addicts. In general, they are considered to be problematic people who are unable to hold down jobs, not very well dressed or are careless or have no money.

On the other hand, nothing can be further from the truth. High functioning addicts are ones who are able to hold steady jobs, earn well and are generally loved and respected by their peers. Understanding the stigma associated with drug addiction and substance abuse, they actually go to bigger lengths to hide this dark secret. It is only when their addiction has progressed to an extreme point that they are unable to maintain their high functioning status.

  • Alcohol Addiction is Different

Man fell asleep with bottle in handSince it is usually consumed in social settings and for recreational purposes, many people don’t consider how easy it is to develop an addiction to alcohol. Alcohol addiction is also not considered to be as harmful or damaging as a drug addiction. In fact, the NIAAA – National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported that alcoholism is more prevalent and is largely untreated and undetected.

Due to the fact that alcohol is more easily available and so socially consumed, alcohol addicts are more likely to indulge in their addiction without any problems. Unfortunately, this fact makes alcohol addiction more difficult to identify which delays treatment.

Maybe it is partially due to the fact that it can be obtained legally, but when alcohol was made illegal, look at what happened. And now there is the question about marijuana and if it should be legalized? There are practical and legitimate reasons to argue this on both sides and the only way to officially determine if it should be legalized would be to allow it to become so. Maybe for just six months until enough statistics can be measured. With that said, some will say that many people will become a statistic by just dying from the result of being high on pot (e.g. car accidents). This is a wait and see dilemma, but one thing is for sure at this time. Relapses are also more common with recovering addicts. Nearly 88,000 deaths in the US occur on an annual basis because of alcohol addiction.  

By setting aside misconceptions about drug addictions and substance abuse, you can offer your loved ones more support and help them seek out the treatment they need. Keep in mind that it will be an uphill battle, but with persistence and perseverance, the addiction can be battled.

Alcohol: Society’s Social Enigma

Beer poured in a bottle Maybe Al Capone had it right. No, we are not talking about his hideous crimes, but his (criminal’s and non-criminal’s) ingenuity of realizing that alcohol prohibition was not going to stop the average Joe or Jane from drinking this popular beverage, otherwise known to some as ‘booze’ or  ‘happy juice’.

In chemistry, alcohol is known as an organic compound. Technically speaking, when a hydroxyl functional group is combined with an atom of carbon, it forms alcohol. Let’s dig a little further into this subject and maybe shed some light on it. 


Ethanol is another name for this stimulant that is commonly found in alcoholic drinks. It is a biphasic drug and different levels of dosage can have varying effects on a person.

It is produced when the yeast ferments sugar in food particles. A known example is wine, which is made from sugar and grapes. Other instances include beer from sugar in malted barley, apple cider and vodka from potatoes and beets.

The content of alcohol varies depending on the type of drink. Fermented drinks like beer contain between 2%-6% of alcohol. This is why, if consumed casually, it does not make a person particularly inebriated. Wine has 8%-20% which makes it a stronger drink. 

On the other hand, drinks like vodka (40%-50%) and tequila (40%) are distilled and have considerably higher toxicity levels.


Consuming alcohol has an impact on a person’s state of mind. It is a depressant with sedative traits that affect the central nervous system and if consumed in high doses, it can diminish one’s vital functions.

Most consumers associate alcohol with pleasure since drinking small quantities helps improve their mood. How it affects an individual’s frontal lobe can be detrimental to health if taken in large quantities. Which begs the question, is alcohol bad for us?

We can look at the benefits and drawbacks of this intoxicant, which may help us to get an understanding of what makes us want this all inspiring beverage.


A commonly held belief among drinkers is that moderate consumption can actually have a positive influence on your health. This belief has been backed by a research conducted at Harvard University.

They accumulated data from over 100 independent studies and concluded that if consumed responsibly, it reduces the risk of diseases such as heart attacks by up to 40%. It also diminishes the possibility of clot-related strokes and other cardiovascular issues, but some drinks can have more positive health benefits than others.

Drinking alcohol increases good cholesterol in your body, which acts as a safeguard against heart disease. It contains high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which has a positive effect on our body.

Moreover, red wine contributes to a reduction in blood pressure since it contains polyphenols. Other health benefits include fighting the common cold. Many infants are given a teaspoon of brandy if they are suffering from influenza. This has been backed by a study at Carnegie Mellon University.

Researchers have also found that alcohol helps improve your sexual health and lower chances of getting long-term illnesses like dementia and diabetes but remember, these studies are based upon moderate drinking. Overdoing it, well, we all know the answer to that!


 drunk man on alcoholNow that we have elaborated the benefits, we can look at the downside of drinking alcohol – amd there are many. First and foremost, is it important to note that caution is advised when drinking because the more you drink, the greater the chance there is of issues rising, or should we say, there is more of a chance of just plain getting yourself in trouble, to say it mildly.

Many alcohol lovers are prone to heavy and binge drinking, which will be discussed later. If drinking sensibly can help avoid diseases, consuming overwhelming amounts can develop them. As the expression goes – too much of anything can have a negative effect on you.

For instance, drinking too much alcohol can lead to inflammation of the liver, a condition which is called alcoholic hepatitis. Typically caused by viruses, alcohol is identified as one of its major causes. If you are not careful, your liver may also be scarred for life, an issue known as cirrhosis. In addition, jaundice is directly related to excessive alcohol drinking.

Harvard University claims that binge drinking can lead to cancers affecting the breast, colon and of course, the liver. Moreover, alcohol is a known reason for weight gain. One example is beer, which is a calorie-heavy drink and lacks any nutritional value. If it is part of an unhealthy diet, it can cause drinkers to develop a ‘beer belly’ as well.

Drinking also affects your brain capacity. A frequent example is drunk driving. More commonly known as Driving under the Influence or DUI or DWI in the New York area. DUI can result in deadly consequences and we probably know of someone or know someone close to us who went down this road (pun intended). It is not a pleasant experience.

Binge drinking, which we referred to earlier, is a habit of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. It is a dangerous trend that does not help. If you habitually consume multiple cans or glasses of alcohol in a short time span, it damages the body and increases chances of getting a stroke and blood pressure. Teenagers and millennials are notorious for this and many end up paying the price.

Soft drinks

There are other beverages which have effects which can rival alcohol as well.

Soft drinks like Coca-Cola and Mountain Dew are usually comprised of the following: carbonated water, sweeteners, artificial color, phosphoric acid, caffeine and artificial flavors. The sweeteners have a high level of sugar in them.

It is crystal clear that this is not a healthy blend of ingredients at all. Soft drinks also have zero nutritional value. In other words, it is a hollow drink with empty calories and no apparent advantage. Caffeine is a diuretic. That means it causes a greater occurrence of urine. This, in turn, means that chances of dehydration are greater. Sodas are also weight gainers.

The only potential benefit of soft drinks is that it contains the aforementioned caffeine and elements of sugar, which can give you a lift if you’re low on energy. However, it is better to have fruits such as apples which have the same effect.

Furthermore, excess intake of sugar is quite detrimental. People often read the nutritional value of foods and consume it without thinking twice if the fat percentage is negligible. In such cases, it is important to note that the sugar level of such foods may be quite high, which is never a good idea.

A single, 350 milliliter can of Coke contains 39 grams of sugar. That is equal to roughly 9 teaspoons of sugar. This means it is bad for your bones since it reduces the calcium level in your body.

Diet soda, which is advertised as having no sugar, is not a viable alternative either. They have an abundance of sweeteners, which leads to sugar cravings and potential weight gain.


William Hogarth - Gin Lane
Beer Street and Gin Lane, 1751 William Hogarth 1697 – 1764
The most obvious caveat from our discussion is that both alcohol and soft drinks have multiple drawbacks. However, in the case of the former, it has a number of health benefits too.

We have discussed the attributes, advantages, and disadvantages of alcohol in detail and the bottom line is simple. Be happy. Have fun and have a shot or two, but also be reasonable. Losing your cognitive abilities can put you in many places, none of which will make you proud. Additionally, you can become vulnerable to any number of crimes, including becoming a victim of sexual abuse. Other people’s lives may be put in jeopardy as well. Think about it. 


What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism refers to chronic use of alcohol with dependence and results in disturbance in daily functioning. Consumption of alcohol is not something new, but many people get addicted to it due to various reasons and it develops into a disorder, often known as Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).

Signs and Symptoms

Alcoholism can be identified through a number of signs and symptoms visible in the person’s behavior apart from medical tests. These signs include drinking alone or trying to keep it a secret, having no control over the amount of alcohol consumed, drinking in large amounts to feel the effect of alcohol, developing alcohol tolerance, having withdrawal effects in case of not drinking. The person would also face trouble in keeping up with relationships and fulfilling professional commitments.

Alcoholism is characterized by reclusiveness and severing ties with the social world. Some people have this uncontrollable urge and this causes them to stash alcohol in all kinds of places for quick access. They have physical symptoms like shivering and sweating, when the drink wears off, which is only subsided by another round of intake. Many alcoholics feel guilty and ashamed of this problem, but find themselves helpless against it.


Alcoholism can be caused because of a number of social and medical reasons. Stress and anxiety can be triggers for consumption of large amounts of alcohol, which eventually may result in addiction. Apart from this, peer pressure and social insistence is also found to be a reason of alcoholism. Many people have such genetic wiring that they cannot control the amount of alcohol they consume. It has also been found that people with a family history of alcoholism, parents being alcoholics, are more likely to be alcoholics themselves.

Health Risks

Alcoholism holds dangers to one’s health in many ways. It can directly affect the liver, increase the GAMMA level which in turn can cause liver failure. Alcohol has adverse effects on the person’s brain functioning and memory as well. Many people lose their ability to perform even the basic functions of everyday life. The effects of this disorder can pass through lineage, from parents to their children. Especially if a mother is an alcoholic, the child may be severely harmed and develop Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.


Medical treatment and rehabilitation centers are available throughout the country; however, this addictive nature of this disorder cannot be treated through one approach alone. If only medical care is provided and the patient has no idea how to have self control or lacks will, then the treatment will be ineffective. Similarly if only psychological assistance is given, the urges will cause the patient to return to the habit if they are not controlled though medicines as well.

This disorder causes many social, professional and emotional problems for the addicted individual. Though, it has been proven, through thousands of case studies that effective and timely treatment can help to return back to normal life.