The opioid epidemic in the US keeps getting worse every year. In 2017, nearly 50,000 people died of opioid-related overdoses. Despite all the attention this epidemic has brought to addiction, many myths and misconceptions about opioid use disorder still persist. Here are some of the common ones.
“Opioid use disorder is a character flaw.”
For a long time, addiction was thought of as a character flaw or a moral failing. That has largely changed over the past 80 years or so, largely because of AA and other 12-step programs and more recently because of scientific research into the causes of addiction. Now, most people recognize addiction as a disease that needs treatment. However, not everyone sees it that way. A 2018 poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that about 44 percent of Americans still see addiction as lack of willpower or a character flaw, and a third of Americans think addiction is a moral failing. We now know that there are many factors that influence one’s risk for addiction. These factors include genes, mental illness, trauma, and environmental factors. Once you become dependent on opioids, your brain changes physically in ways that make it much harder to quit. And if you do want to quit, willpower is typically not enough to sustain a long recovery.
“You can detox from opioids on your own.”
Technically, it is possible to detox from opioids on your own, but it’s never a good idea. At the very least, you should consult with your doctor about tapering off. However, many people need more help, such as medical detox. This allows medical staff to make sure you stay safe and monitor any health conditions that might be exacerbated by the stress of withdrawal. Medical detox also increases your commitment to detoxing. Most people who try to detox on their own give up after a few days because the withdrawal symptoms are too miserable.
“Opioids are effective for treating chronic pain.”
One barrier people sometimes have to quitting opioids is that they believe opioids are necessary for treating their chronic pain. It may be how they became addicted in the first place. While opioids are great for pain in the short term, they are actually not very good for treating pain indefinitely. For one, you develop a tolerance and have to keep increasing your dosage, sometimes to dangerous levels. Also, there’s a condition called opioid-induced hyperalgesia, which is essentially spontaneous pain caused by opioid use. There are much better long-term treatments for pain and these are often much safer too.
“Taking opioids as directed won’t lead to addiction.”
Many people believe that if you take medication prescribed by a doctor you won’t become addicted, that it’s people who abuse their medications that develop problems. However, much of the impetus behind the opioid crisis can be traced to doctors over-prescribing opioid painkillers in the 1990s and early 2000s. Often, people who would otherwise never use opioids would take them following a medical procedure, surgery, or wisdom tooth extraction, and develop physical dependence and addiction. Doctors are much more careful now about prescribing opioids, but it’s still best to be cautious with potentially addictive medications.
Arbor Behavioral Healthcare offers an integrative and holistic approach to treat substance abuse and a wide variety of addictions, as well as underlying mental health and psychological issues. All of the addiction recovery programs offered by The Arbor are designed to heal the mind, body, and spirit leading to a lifetime of sobriety, health and wellness. If you’re ready to find healing and restoration in a peaceful, loving environment, please call us today at 844-560-7269.