Twelve Myths About Alcoholism & Addiction

What are alcoholism and addiction myths? According to Webster’s Dictionary, a myth is “an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution.” There are many “facts” about alcoholism and drug addiction that are in fact false beliefs.

Many of these misconception are the result of the repeated portrayal of alcoholic and drug addict stereotypes in movies and books. The drama associated with these illusions is usually more interesting than the reality. The trouble with these falsehoods is that they have been repeated so often that they are believed to be true.

When we believe something to be true that in actuality is false, we are more likely to make poor choices. If we are dealing with an alcoholic or drug addict, who will support these myths with the lies that they tell, these poor choices can end up making our lives miserable.

Believing falsehoods makes recovery difficult.

Following are a number of fallacies that I believe exacerbate the problems of families dealing with alcoholism or addiction. Some of these are contentious. If you may disagree with me, that’s okay. In fact, that is great. It simply means that you are engaged with your problem and are thinking about the information you are reading and making your own determination as to what makes sense for your situation. That’s the point of this site; to encourage you to think about your alcoholic or addict family situation and make informed, thoughtful choices.

Myth 1: It is my fault that my spouse drinks too much.

Fact: Unless you are holding them down and pouring the drinks down their throat, it is not your fault. Often there is no fault at all. Depending on their genetic makeup, childhood background and environment, their alcoholism may be out of their control. This does not mean that treatment won’t help. It often does. But in any circumstances, it is not your fault.

Myth 2: If I stop cleaning up my husband’s messes our family situation will just get worse.

Fact: The fact is that alcoholism and drug addiction are progressive diseases. Your family situation will get worse until your spouse husband enters recovery. Cleaning up his messes only drags it out. Would you choose to have your arm cut off very slowly or, if it has to happen anyway, would you choose to have it cut off quickly? Enabling your husband’s drinking by cleaning up his messes will simply keep your family in pain that much longer.

Myth 3: Children are adaptable. My wife’s drinking doesn’t affect them that much.

Fact: Children may be adaptable, but to grow up healthy and reasonably well adjusted they need predictable, low stress routines in their lives. The drama and erratic behavior that an alcoholic brings to the family dynamic can be seriously damaging to children, especially to younger children.

Myth 4: A single sip of alcohol when pregnant can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Fact: There is no scientific research that validates this. If this were true, there would probably be a lot higher incidence of FAS given that most women, including those that drink, are usually pregnant for some weeks before they know it. However, as with most things, this may vary depending on the individual. The safest behavior for your child would be to abstain totally from alcohol and drugs while pregnant and while breastfeeding.

Myth 5: If someone has passed out drunk, the best thing to do is to put them to bed and let them sleep it off.

Fact: Someone who has passed out drunk is at risk. The amount of alcohol it takes to make someone pass out is close to the amount that will cause death. Their body will continue to process any drinks taken just before they passed out, possibly increasing their blood alcohol to the point that they may go into cardiac arrest. Also, if they throw up while passed out they could choke and die. Do not leave someone who has passed out alone. They need to be watched over until they have returned to consciousness so that medical attention can be sought if they get into difficulty.

Myth 6: Alcohol use is not as dangerous as drug use.

Fact: Although there are more illicit drug users than there are alcoholics, every year there are many times more alcohol related deaths than there are drug related deaths.

Myth 7: After being clean and sober for a while, most alcoholics and addicts are cured and can eventually return to social use of their substance of choice.

Fact: Addiction is never cured. Never. After recovery some individuals can, for a period of time, use alcohol or drugs in social settings. Invariably, however, they fall back into their alcoholic or drug addict behavior patterns.

Myth 8: If a person drinks long enough they will become alcoholic.

Fact: There is no science to support this. Some people will begin to demonstrate alcoholic behavior the first time they drink. Others will drink their whole lives without ever showing signs of alcoholic behavior. And still others, after drinking for some time, will begin to develop signs of alcoholism. It appears to depend on the individual.

Myth 9: Addiction is primarily the result of personal and moral weakness.

Fact: Different people have different susceptibility to drugs or alcohol. Genetics, family culture and personal choices all contribute to addiction. In addition, the brain chemistry effect of some drugs makes them highly addictive. It makes no difference if you are rich or poor, educated or not, moral or immoral, anyone can become drug or alcohol dependent, depending on their genetic and personal situation.

Myth 10: Alcoholics and drug addicts could just choose to stop if they wanted.

Fact: Without some kind of support, few alcoholics or addicts can quit on their own. It is not simply a matter of will power. Think about anything in your life that you willed yourself to do – lose weight, exercise more, eat better, etc. – the odds are that just willing it to happen did not work for long. Without changes to living conditions combined with information about how to keep off of drugs or alcohol, very few people can stop using. And those that do often still behave like alcoholics or addicts. Recovery from addiction is a whole life change that takes treatment and support.

Myth 11: Alcohol causes alcoholism and drugs cause drug addiction.

Fact: If this were true, anyone who ever had a drink would become an alcoholic and anyone who ever used drugs would become an addict. For whatever reason, some individuals are more likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol than others.

Myth 12: Treatment programs work about the same for everyone.

Fact: Although there are similarities between types of treatment programs, individual results vary a lot. Much depends on the individual and their particular addiction, their personal history and the support that is available to them.

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