Alcohol is the most commonly used substance in the US. Most Americans drink at least occasionally without having a problem, but about seven percent develop alcohol use disorders. Public awareness has made considerable progress in recent decades but many myths still persist about alcohol addiction. Here are some of the big ones.
People addicted to alcohol are usually unemployed and/or homeless.
It’s true that there is a large overlap between people who are unemployed or homeless and people who have problems with substance use, including alcohol. In fact, losing your job and remaining unemployed for a long time is a major risk factor for depression and addiction. However, many people who struggle with alcohol addiction are very good at hiding it. They can often hold down a job and pay the bills for years before their drinking becomes unmanageable.
People addicted to alcohol have no willpower.
This misconception is disappearing, but very slowly. A recent poll found that about 40 percent of Americans still see addiction as a character flaw or a lack of self-control. In reality, addiction is caused by a number of factors including genetics, family history, mental health issues, and trauma. People who try to quit using willpower alone typically fail. Quitting alcohol requires a holistic approach that includes social support, therapy, healthy lifestyle changes, and sometimes medication.
People addicted to alcohol are hopeless cases.
There’s a common saying, “Once an addict, always an addict.” While it’s true that some risk factors for addiction, such as genes and family history, can’t be changed, many people can and do get addiction under control and lead better lives in recovery. For example, many addictions are driven by untreated mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, or bipolar disorder. Once these are properly treated, substance use is much easier to control. Other factors like strong social support, a healthy family dynamic, and healthier living make recovery much easier too.
Weekend binging is not an alcohol use disorder.
Unhealthy substance use can take many forms. Many people have a work-hard-play-hard mentality and believe cutting lose on the weekends is not really a problem. However, cutting lose on the weekends can have many negative consequences if you’re not in control of your drinking. You may be at risk for alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal, as well as blackouts and accidents. Even if you avoid those problems, weekend binge drinking can have serious effects on your relationships and finances. If you keep up this pattern despite negative consequences, you have a problem.
If you can stop drinking then you don’t have a problem.
Persistent drinking is only one aspect of alcohol addiction. The more salient characteristic is that once you start drinking, you can’t stop. If you have one drink, you might as well have 10. This is what leads to binges, blackouts, alcohol poisoning, and accidents. It also tends to lead depression and shame, which encourage more drinking. It hardly matters that you can go a week without a drink if at the end of the week you get blackout drunk and crash your car.
If you’re struggling with substance use, Recovery Ways can help. We offer intensive outpatient treatment as well as residential treatment. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.