Do you remember the original MythBusters series? In each episode, the cast would address a myth to see if they could confirm it, declare it plausible, or bust it. The show was a great way to learn about science and was a favorite of kids and adults alike. The team investigated all sorts of things—including, for example, whether gummy bears can be used as rocket fuel.

There are plenty of myths that swirl around in the public consciousness about substance use disorders. And these untrue ideas can be very harmful for a person who is struggling with drugs or alcohol or even for those who are in recovery from a substance use disorder.

So in this entry, we are setting out to bust some of these myths. 

BUSTED: Addiction is a choice; people can simply stop using drugs or alcohol if they truly want to.

There are several variations on this myth. You might hear someone suggest that addiction is just a question of willpower or of character or of faith. If a person just has enough of one or all of those things, they should be able to quit using drugs or alcohol without any trouble at all. And if they can’t? Well, that must be a clear indication that they are lacking in will power or character or faith—or all three.

The prevalence of this myth is one of the many reasons we prefer to describe issues with drugs or alcohol as substance use disorders rather than as an addiction. The term “substance use disorder” accurately describes something very important: Difficulties with substances are a disorder—a chronic brain disease—and not a choice a person is making. Misuse of drugs or alcohol changes a person’s brain chemistry in such a way that they crave the substance to such a degree that they ignore potential and actual negative consequences. Additionally, the rigors of withdrawal make it extremely difficult to simply stop using drugs or alcohol—no matter how much will power, character, or faith a person might possess. 

BUSTED: An individual who is experiencing success must not be addicted to drugs or alcohol.

While the impacts of a substance use disorder tend to eventually catch up with most everyone, it is possible to be accomplishing professional goals, enjoying family life, and more—even as things are starting to go awry to one degree or another. In fact, many people convince themselves that drugs or alcohol are actually fueling their success by sparking creativity or providing more energy or helping them relax. 

While this sense of success is present, the person with the problem may well be in denial—and they may be able to hide the problem from friends, family, and coworkers. In the end, however, the substance use disorder is going to upend the person’s life, so it is far preferable that they are honest with themselves in the early days of a substance use disorder so that they can minimize the negative impacts to their physical and mental health, their professional and social lives, and their relationships.

BUSTED: If a drug is legal, it must be safe.

This myth persists even though it is clearly false. Alcohol is legal, but many, many people struggle with a substance use disorder centered on alcohol. Marijuana is increasingly legal, but it, too, causes plenty of problems for plenty of people.

Also, prescription drugs are legal, but there is simply no denying that prescription pain killers—among a range of other drugs prescribed by medical professionals—can lead to devastating issues that upend and cut short lives. The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics reports that six percent of Americans over the age of 12—that’s 16 million people—misuse prescription drugs in a year. Of those 16 million people, 12 percent are addicted to prescription drugs. That’s two million people. 

There is More Myth-Busting to Come

We have busted three myths about substance use disorders above, but there are plenty more to cover. Think of this as the first “episode” of our own MythBusters-style series. We won’t be launching any rockets—with gummy bears or any other kind of fuel—but we will provide the information you need to make quality decisions based in fact.

It’s No Myth that The Aviary Recovery Center can Help

When you are struggling with drug or alcohol use, it can sometimes feel as though you are all alone. At other times, it can feel like everyone in your life is judging you, offering questionable advice, or both. Either way, you might feel like your situation is hopeless. But it isn’t.

At The Aviary Recovery Center, which is located near St. Louis, Missouri, we provide medically supervised detox services, a robust rehabilitation program that also addresses co-occurring mental health disorders, and a continuum of care that can help you start your recovery journey with confidence. Don’t fall prey to any of the unhelpful myths about substance use disorders. Instead, let The Aviary Recovery Center help you reclaim and maintain your sobriety.