3 Myths About Stigma & Addiction

February 23, 2018. Article by: In Partnership with the First Nations Health Authority

It's impossible to move forward in the overdose crisis without addressing some major myths about addiction and substance use. After reading this article, talk about these myths with friends and families.  See if you can start to change the way you and the people around you think about people who use substances and their experiences. The way forward needs  new approaches and new ways of thinking.

MYTH 1: “DO A DRUG ONCE AND YOU’RE ADDICTED”

Most people who try drugs (or are prescribed drugs) do not become addicted.  It's true that the more often a substance is used, the higher the risk of addiction.  But even then, it may not result in actual addiction. 

  • FACT: PEOPLE WHO STRUGGLE WITH ADDICTION USE SUBSTANCES TO DEAL WITH PAIN
  • People who struggle with problematic drug use are trying to easy physical, emotional, spiritual and/or mental pain. They are trying to numb difficult feelings. To create meaningful change we need to address the underlying and on-going trauma, grief and loss that contribute to this pain. 

MYTH 2: “YOU HAVE TO HIT ROCK BOTTOM BEFORE I CAN HELP YOU”

Hitting rock bottom does not help most people change their ways. Harshness does not jolt people into changing. 

  • FACT: HITTING ROCK BOTTOM CAN BE MORE HARMFUL THAN HELPFUL
  • Supporting someone who uses drugs?  It's important to focus on building your relationship on safety and trust. If you leave people on their own  - to ‘hit rock bottom’ or ‘learn it the hard way’  - you risk losing the chance to connect and provide support.

MYTH 3: “IF YOU REALLY LOVED ME, YOU WOULD STOP USING.”

People living with addiction do care for their loved ones.  They understand the impact their substance use has on their friends and family. 

  • FACT: ADDICTION IS NOT A CHOICE 
  • Ending addiction is much more complicated than “just saying no”.  Some of the most important things you can do to support people on their healing journey are:
    • Have open conversations about substance use
    • Learn more about addiction and harm reduction
    • Recognize that everyone takes a difference path to wards treatment and recovery. There are many ways to heal.


 [Repurposed with permission from the First Nations Health Authority]