One for All Addicts?
No two addictions are exactly alike, but they might be more similar than you think. Characteristics of drug abuse can exhibit in nearly identical ways in everything from alcohol to opiates. Patients develop a dependency on the drug that requires treatment through both medical and behavioral methods. This commonality of drug abuse experiences is part of what makes group therapy sessions so effective. Patients with a variety of abuse problems can relate to one another by discussing experiences turning to the drug to solve problems, sacrificing values to obtain the drug, and feeling like a different person when under the influence.
For those who are searching for answers about drug abuse and potential treatment options, read on to discover some of the most common misconceptions about the two concepts, and the facts behind the myths.
FICTION: Treatment for Alcoholism is Different Than that of Other drug addictions
FACT: Believe it or not, alcoholism is highly similar to other types of addictions. Recently commenting on their similarity is Bankole Johnson, professor of neuroscience at the University of Virginia, School of Medicine and the editor of the new text Addiction Medicine. Johnson has helped develop several new pharmacological approaches for addiction treatment, and sat down with Scientific American last year to answer this very misconception.
In response to the question of whether or not there were differences in treating alcoholism compared with other drug addictions, Johnson responded:
“There’s no general difference. You use the same approach of determining what the patient needs. A lot of addictions do have a pharmacological component. We don’t have a good drug for cocaine addiction, but we have drugs for alcohol addiction, opiate addiction and a wide range of addictions.”
Although there may not technically be a medicinal solution for preventing cocaine cravings, Scientific American recently reported on an experimental vaccine that counters the pleasurable effects of the drug. As a result of taking the drug, patients can be deconditioned from their dependency. However, this type of drug dependency typically requires more of a focus on psychological and behavioral treatment to compensate for medicinal lack.
FICTION: Addictions to Street Drugs are Harder to Break than Less Harmful Substances
FACT: The American Heart Association recently reported that “behavioral characteristics that determine tobacco addiction are similar to those that determine addiction to drugs such as heroin and cocaine.” In a country where smoking and drinking are legal activities for those of age, it’s easy to see why so many people would fall into the misconception that these substances are less harmful than other addictive substances. In terms of the effects of the substance itself, this belief may carry some merit with it. However, when looking at it from the perspective of addiction, they’re not so different.
In fact, Australian general practitioner Raymond Seidler was recently quoted saying, “What smokers don’t realize is that nicotine addiction is as powerful, or even more powerful, than heroin addiction.” He adds, “That can come as a shock to a lot of people. Quitting is therefore a serious challenge for most.” Dr. Seidler is a trained addiction recovery specialist who has more than 30 years of experience. Based on his own research and experience, he argues that users are better able to give up abuse of all substances when seeking professional help.
Although patients all report different experiences in overcoming addiction, the important thing to take away from these facts are that you can’t judge the dependency by the drug. There’s no reason why a patient suffering from alcohol addiction would benefit less from rehab than an individual with an opiate dependency. Individual treatment will be necessary part of the time in these two cases. However, many treatment options can be beneficial for both users.
FICTION: Underlying Conditions are Unrelated to Addiction Struggles
FACT: One of the reasons that various drug dependencies can easily relate to one another is because they can stem from similar conditions. Perhaps the biggest misconception out there today is that addiction is the core problem, rather than a symptom of a deeper, underlying problem. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has argued in its Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: “To be effective, treatment must address the individual’s drug abuse and any associated medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal problems.”
Understanding this concept is a huge step forward in getting help. It explains why long-term treatment is crucial to recovery and why medical treatment must be complemented with psychological and behavioral care. Drug abuse is often a coping mechanism to better manage difficulties with these aspects of life, and it’s nearly impossible to just take this away without offering alternative solutions to these deep-seated problems.
The truth is that we all face challenges in life that make it difficult to cope, and it’s this shared human experience that makes users so easily relate to one another. By defining drug abuse as a medical condition resulting from a larger psychological and biological disorder, rehab centers can more effectively treat a diverse group of patients and provide them with a relevant support system.
Learning the Facts is the First Step to Getting Help
With so many misconceptions about addiction in the world today, it can be difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. The truth is that addiction is a complex, multi-faceted disorder that deserves more attention. Rehab centers today do work with all types of users, who might come from a variety of backgrounds and struggle with different substances. In fact, most patients find that they aren’t very different from their peers who struggle with different substances.