Popular media depicts drug addiction in many different ways. Some show it in a dramatic sense, while others are comedic. Whether we’re watching a real-life intervention on TV or seeing goofy “stoners” stumble their way through some frequent misadventures, it’s easy for us to eventually associate these portrayals with reality.  

Unfortunately for real addicts, people’s preconceived notions lead to dismissal or harsh judgment. Consequently, some of these individuals feel too ashamed to seek the help they need from friends, family, or doctors. The sooner we dispel any misconceptions, the better equipped we’ll be to handle the issue of addiction.

Addiction is Deliberate

Some people may use the phrase “he got himself addicted” to the substance in question. This is misleading, because it places the blame squarely on the addicts, making them the objects of scorn rather than sympathy. While you can’t dispute the fact that the patient chose to engage in drug use, the addiction itself was not intentional, and it simply can’t be broken through sheer determination.

The most important thing to consider is that drug use can be triggered by a multitude of issues. For some, they’re exposed to a certain drug-friendly environment from childhood. Others use substances to mask real-life problems or suppress an undiagnosed mental illness. 

The bottom line is that you can’t expect an addict to just “get over” their problems and drop the use of the drug on their own. 

Addicts are “Sketchy” People

To the untrained eye, the image of a long-term addict can be alarming. Many appear sickly, lethargic, and poor. Naturally, this prompts people to fear them as potential criminals who will steal for their next dose. Alternately, some may simply look down on them as the lowest people in society. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Nobody is immune to drug use or addiction. Many prominent figures have been harmed by substance abuse. Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix, for instance, both died because of drug use. Eric Clapton was able to overcome a heroin addiction replacing it with alcohol instead. These people were far from poor, no one would fear them as criminals if they met them on the street. 

Addicts are Dependent on One Substance

When we see an addict, we may jump to the conclusion that they’re a “meth head” or some other pejorative term. The truth is that many addicts abuse more than one substance. Polysubstance abuse poses an enormous challenge for recovery since treatment will need to address all the addictions. 

People become addicted to multiple substances for a variety of reasons. Some simply like to experiment. Others find that they need the mixture to cope with different problems, or to counteract the “crash” and other negative effects of some drugs. While this doesn’t apply to all users, it’s certainly a possibility that needs to be considered.

Rehabilitation Should Be Harsh

The idea that recovering addicts have access to special amenities is unsettling to some. Rehab facilities offer a variety of services, such as cognitive therapy, recreational activities, and comfortable, quiet environments. Unfortunately, this doesn’t sit well with those who think that people should be detoxed with brute force.

The reality is that twisting someone’s arm and motivating recovery through shame are the worst things to do. In fact, being treated like a second-class citizen greatly increases the odds of a relapse. 

Addicts need a comprehensive treatment plan in a welcoming environment because it provides a reprieve from their otherwise unpleasant life situation. Because of this “cushy” experience, they gain valuable tools to face the inevitable challenges of post-rehab life.

Contrary to the claims of self-righteous family or peers, addiction is a disease and should be treated as such. Unfortunately, it’s easy to take the misconceptions or selective depictions provided by the media and accept them as truth, regardless of the topic. Remember, this is extremely harmful to society as a whole. Instead of gaining your knowledge about addiction from reality TV or movies, do the right thing and learn about it from books, expert websites, or academic journals.