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5 Myths About Alcohol Use Disorder

woman discusses alcohol use with friend

Alcohol is one of the most common and deadly addictions, second only to tobacco. About 88,000 people die every year from alcohol-related causes. While most Americans drink at least occasionally, only about seven percent will develop an alcohol use disorder. What’s more, since drinking is so widespread, it’s not always apparent who has a problem. As a result, many people have mistaken ideas about alcohol use disorder, such as the following.

“People with alcohol use disorder lack willpower.”

Addiction–especially addiction to alcohol–used to be thought of as a moral failing. In recent decades, more and more people have begun to see addiction as a disease that needs treatment. We still have a long way to go, though. A 2018 poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 53 percent of Americans believe addiction is a disease, but 44 percent see addiction as a lack of willpower or a character flaw, and 33 percent see it as a moral failing. In reality, addiction is a complex condition with genetic, physiological,  and environmental factors. What’s more, willpower is a limited resource and few people can stay sober for long on willpower alone. True recovery requires addressing the underlying causes of addiction, treating co-occurring conditions, and building social support.

“You can’t have a problem if you only drink on weekends.”

People often imagine that someone with alcohol use disorder drinks all day every day. That’s not always true. It’s possible to have unhealthy drinking habits even if you only drink intermittently, say on the weekends. Alcohol use disorder is more about your relationship to alcohol than a specific pattern of use. If you need to drink to relax at the end of a hard week or if your weekend drinking is out of control and causes you problems, such as accidents, fights, or legal problems, then that’s problem drinking.

“Alcohol is only a problem if you drink every day.”

As noted above, alcohol use disorder is more about your relation to alcohol than any specific pattern of use. Many people deny they have a problem and for evidence they point to the fact that they don’t drink every day. Some people may even go weeks without drinking. Often, the problem for people with alcohol use disorder is not that they have to drink all the time, but that once they start drinking, they can’t stop.

“People with alcohol use disorder are usually unemployed or homeless.”

It’s true that addiction to alcohol and other drugs is disproportionately high among the unemployed and homeless, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that people with substance use issues are usually unemployed or homeless. You may assume you can tell by looking at someone whether she has a substance use issue, but that’s often not the case, especially since drinking is so socially common. Many people can function pretty well for a while despite having an alcohol use disorder. An many high achievers will go to great lengths to hide their substance use.

“People with alcohol use disorder are hopeless.”

Perhaps the most destructive myth about alcohol use disorder is the idea of “Once and addict, always and addict,” that you can never really change. It’s true there are genetic factors you can’t do anything about and your past never goes away. The best route for most people with alcohol use disorder is abstinence. However, many people do overcome addiction with the right help and social support.

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.