The emotional nature of substance abuse means that it is tainted by all sorts of myths and misconceptions; many made by people who haven’t necessarily been affected by the problem.

The fact that some established individuals in the field, like Erik Bugen, have suggested that there’s at least a 12-step approach needed to treat drug addiction tells its own story of how complex an issue this really is. In other words, it’s not just simply about giving up and forgetting (if only it was that easy).

With so many myths circling around, it can become difficult to digest the subject in one. Bearing this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the biggest misconceptions that are around and debunk them once and for all.

It’s easy to see an addict

Substance abuse is full of all sorts of stereotypes and if you were to ask anyone to describe what they thought an addict looked like, the responses would probably quite similar. “Male”, “unemployed”, “criminal” are just some of the usual descriptions but suffice to say, these stereotypes are completely unfounded.

In simple terms, it’s not easy to spot an addict. There are no hard and fast rules which identify someone who is addicted to drugs.

In fact, to put some statistics into the debate, individuals earning between $20,000 and $50,000 are showing more signs of turning to drug addiction than any other group.

All sorts of things can cause an addiction – there’s no such thing as a typical drug user.

Addictions only occur with illegal substances

This is another common myth but yet again, it’s completely unfounded.

While heroin, cocaine and all sorts of illegal drugs are often associated with substance abuse, it’s not always like this. In fact, if we turn the clock back to 2012, there were over 25 million people who had abused the hydrocodone drug. To put this into perspective, this is a prescription opioid which is in no way illegal.

As such, just because a person is visiting a pharmacy, it doesn’t mean to say that they are immediately excluded from addiction.

Addicts can make a conscious decision to quit

This myth is perhaps one of the most damaging, for the simple reason that it suggests that drug addiction is all in the mind and a person can switch off their feelings towards drugs whenever they choose.

As you may have gathered, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Drug addiction is a condition where a user feels compelled to use substances – and this is regardless of the consequences.

To make the matter even more complicated, over time addicts will become dependent on the substances. This means that the problem suddenly becomes physical, as well as mental. Their body requires the drug to function normally and if it is taken away, withdrawal will occur.

To cut a long story short, due to both the physical and mental elements of drug abuse, there is no “yes or no” decision that can be made in the brain.