Misconception #1: It can’t be a disease. It’s a lack of willpower.
The Truth: Diseases are scary, so no one wants to think about them. Some diseases you inherit a tendency for, like high blood pressure or heart disease. Some develop over time, such as asthma or diabetes. And others develop over time for a lot of different reasons, like numerous cancers.
Addiction is just like that. It is a disease. Some people are more susceptible to it because of genetics. Some get it with no genetic history. Some develop it because of lifestyle while others with a similar lifestyle never get it. For some, addiction develops over the course of years and for others, it is a clear and present danger almost from the start of use.
Another way addiction is like a disease: When you stop taking your anti-addiction medicines, there are consequences. Think about it. If you stop taking your diabetes medication, you can expect to go into a diabetic coma. When you stop taking your asthma medication, you can expect to have your breathing severely compromised. When you stop taking your heart medicine, you can expect to have a heart attack. And if you stop taking your anti-addiction medicines before your brain has had a chance to heal, you can expect the cravings to come back.
No one stops taking their medications for other diseases just because they “feel better.” That’s the whole point of the medication: To feel better. To get well. Not cured. Just day-to-day, functioning normally, well.
Misconception #2: If you want to bad enough, you can control it.
The Truth: For some people, managing their addiction through faith and willpower works really well. And if it is working for you or someone you know, by all means stay with that path. Your sobriety is truly a blessing.
But for millions, that path does not work… or does not work for long. Does that mean you lack faith, self-discipline or trust in God? Absolutely not. The decision to drink or use may have originally been a voluntary one, but the fact that you are now addicted is not. Over time, your brain became injured. And like a cancer that went undetected, it’s not your fault that you didn’t see it coming and couldn’t stop it once you finally woke up to the reality that something was terribly wrong.
Addiction is a disease that is located in the limbic system of the brain. Over time it will damage the brain’s chemistry and neurological pathways, and will require medical help and possibly anti-addiction medicines to restore the chemical balance, heal the pathways and get back to a more “normal” state.
Misconception #3: Other addicts can get clean and sober by going to meetings. Why can’t you?
The Truth: Some recovering from addiction are able to manage their disease successfully through traditional talk therapy-based programs. Research shows that roughly 30% of the people in these programs will be successful. That means 70% or more who seek this form of treatment could be in a seemingly endless cycle of recovery-relapse-treatment-recovery-relapse-treatment. Most people come to find that low success rate unacceptable.
Many successful people in recovery do not want to embrace the fact that addiction as a disease because it does not fit with their personal experience and their years of hard work, discipline, and faith.
If you are one for whom traditional treatment methods have worked, you and your loved ones are truly blessed. For those who seek an alternative to traditional treatment methods, Enterhealth has a number of programs for individuals and families that seek a clean and sober life. We see a lot of individuals who are driven, responsible, accomplished, admired, and respected. They can do almost anything they set their minds to. We see a lot of individuals who love their families, their spouses, their jobs, their lives, and their church. But none of those things seem to matter when they are in the presence of their substance of choice. We treat a lot of people who are despondent, guilt-ridden or just want to die because they can’t control their cravings.
For those in this group, we can help. Using the latest advancements in medicine and therapy, Enterhealth is helping people every day overcome thier addiction.
Misconception #4: You are just trading one addiction for another if you use anti-addiction medicines to control your urges.
The Truth: The anti-addiction medicines used in addiction treatment have been proven safe and non-addictive. They have been fully researched by the American Medical Association and the F.D.A. The way these medications interact with your brain makes it physically impossible to become addicted because they are not triggering the addiction centers in the brain.
What these drugs do is “stand in the gap” between your neurons and your transmitters so that the “signals” your brain normally receives in the addiction centers of the brain are effectively disconnected. These also turn-off or negate both the compulsive cravings and the euphoria or “high” associated with pleasure if you do happen to use or drink.
Typically, the neurons and transmitters in addicted people have been red-lining in overdrive for a very long time. By giving them a “break” from what has become normal, the brain starts to cool down and rebalance its biochemistry. After this cooling period, the neurons and transmitters start to function in the way they were originally intended (pre-addiction). The more they can function that as intended, the stronger they get and the less likely they are to go back to functioning in overdrive. With the brain cooled, quieted and chemically rebalanced, you will find it much easier to focus and apply the behavioral therapies and techniques learned in treatment.
It takes about 45 to 90 days for the brain to cool down. And it takes about a year, sometimes two, to get the brain back to normal. So be patient. You didn’t get here overnight, and you won’t get well overnight. But you will get better if you stay with a treatment program that uses a multi-dimensional approach to treat the disease.