Myths around addiction are the only information many have about substance use disorders. These myths create stigma that prevents not only those affected to seek help, but also the development of holistic and effective prevention and treatment protocols.
Myth 1: Addiction is a choice
One of the many myths is that ending a substance use disorders is a matter of willpower while it is, in fact, a diagnosable and treatable medical condition.
“Addiction affects the specific part of our brain that controls our logical thinking. That is why people with addictive disorders cannot logically make a choice not to use the substance again and again. Addiction is treatable, but not curable,” says Adrie Vermeulen, National Director of SANCA, the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
Myth 2: Rehab can fix everything
Addiction affects every person differently which means that their recovery paths will be different as well.
Fighting a substance use disorder is possible. Rehabilitation centres around the country are geared to assist people suffering from addictive disorders to learn how to take control of the addiction so that they can live a normal life.
“To get out of the addictive environment completely requires a complete overhaul of a patient’s life and everything that they are used to. It’s a lifestyle change like no other. From social circles, to jobs, regular routines and the ongoing daily battle to fight the addiction,” says Vermeulen.
“The support of medical and therapeutic professionals with the right knowledge, as well as family members, friends and even colleagues who are not afraid to have honest conversations is invaluable.”
SANCA has decided to speed up the development of holistic and effective treatment protocols by hosting the ADDICTION Conference 2021 on 21-23 July. This inaugural platform will bring together SUD (Substance use Disorder) treatment and other healthcare professionals to collaborate with providers, policy makers and regulators to create effective and long-lasting solutions to address the public health crisis of SUDs.
Myth 3: Only certain types of people have substance use disorders
Another common myth is that only poor or uneducated people are affected and that substance abuse is a class problem, not an individual problem.
A substance use disorder isn’t dependent on race, gender, sexual orientation, culture, social status, financial status or education. It also doesn’t just inflict people who have character flaws or are weak willed.
According to Vermeulen the average age of a person starting to experiment with addictive substances like alcohol or drugs is 12 years of age. Because it’s a progressive illness, the addiction is created over a period of time – most admissions to SANCA centers are in the age group of 18 to 35.
“There are many other reasons why some people get addicted and others don’t.” says Vermeulen. “The addictive gene is hereditary, but just because you have the addictive gene, doesn’t mean you don’t have a fighting spirit.”
“Only once the conversation around substance use disorders “addiction” shifts from stigma to solutions will more people be willing to seek treatment.”
For more information on Substance Use Disorder Diagnosis & Treatment, Register for the ADDICTION Conference 21-23 July 2021 at www.addiction.org.za. The conference is aimed at all Healthcare Professionals and the conference offers CPD accreditation.