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Can you sort out the myths of addiction?

Carlton K. Erickson, Ph.D. of the University of Texas Addiction Science Research and Education Center has identified these common myths.

1. Addicts are bad, crazy, or stupid. Research proves otherwise, and that addicts have a brain disease which extends past their use of drugs.
2. Addiction is a will power problem. The mesolimbic dopamine system of the brain is not under conscious control. This is an old blaming notion, inconsistent with modern research.
3. Addicts should be punished, not treated, for using drugs. People with addiction need treatment for this neurobiologically and neurochemically driven brain disease. Drug or DUI courts, and the combination of treatment and punishment for behavior while using, will be discussed in another column.
4. People addicted to one drug are addicted to all drugs. It is likely that people will have a drug of choice, may use or be dependent upon another one or two, but it really is a matching up related to brain chemistry.
5. Addicts cannot be treated with medications. Medications are used to detoxify people safely in many settings, and some new pharmacotherapies are very useful in helping individuals manage their cravings while maintaining sobriety, or reducing harm. These also increase the effectiveness of the treatment groups.
6. Addiction is treated behaviorally, so it must be a behavior problem. This would mean that diabetics who need nutrition classes merely have a behavior problem. Addiction may be treated by medication and/or behavioral talk therapies, or combining the two, similar to diabetes.
7. Alcoholics/addicts can stop using simply by attending AA/NA meetings, so they can’t have a brain disease. AA and NA are time honored 12 step support systems for recovery, but it isn’t sufficient for everyone who wants to quit using. Many at such meetings completed a treatment program, and then maintained growth and recovery by regular attendance and working a recovery program.

I urge you to read more about these myths, either by reading more of Dr. Carlton Erickson’s fine research or other authoritative sources. If you do better with video, try watching some of the WYNK flash videos for further education in the area of addiction facts.

by: Lois Cochrane Schlutter, Ph.D. L.P.

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