The United States may represent fewer than 5% of the world’s population, but we consume more opioids than any other country: approximately 30% of the world’s supply.(1) It’s no wonder why addiction was declared a national emergency.

Opioids, including prescription opioids, heroin and fentanyl, killed more than 42,000 people in 2016, and 40% of all opioid overdose deaths included a prescription opioid.(2) That’s more than any year on record.

Still, considerable stigma and myths surround opioid use disorder. These widely believed misconceptions aren’t just untrue; they’re harmful and may prevent people from getting help.

1. You can’t get addicted if it’s a prescription.

Opioids dangerously addictive substances, and for most people, addiction starts with a doctor’s prescription. The number of prescriptions for opioids in the United States quadrupled between 1999 and 2010.(3)

Prescription opioids treat moderate to severe pain as a result of chronic illness, injury or surgery and vastly improve quality of life. They also create artificial endorphins in the brain.  Some use opioids recreationally beyond the prescribed dose, while others use them to experience the feelings of euphoria.

2. Addiction is a sign of weakness.

The American Medical Association and American Society of Addiction Medicine have recognized addiction as a disease for years. Addiction isn’t caused by one single thing, but rather a combination of biobehavioral and environmental factors. The decision to use any substance is a personal choice, but once addiction takes hold on the brain, willpower dissipates, and it’s hard to overcome the intense cravings for the drug.

3. If you’re an addict, you fit a specific type of mold.

Many people accept the stereotype that those who are addicted to opioids are young, male, low-income and a minority, but substance use disorder does not discriminate. Anyone can develop an addiction, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status or sexual orientation.

A 2017 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that the drug overdose problem casts a broader net than researchers first realized, affecting a growing number of black and Hispanic Americans, as well as older Americans between 55 and 64.(4)

4. You’re not an addict if you have a job.

People struggling with substance use disorder can appear normal and healthy on the outside. They have jobs, and they do well in them to convince others and themselves that they don’t have a problem. 70% of the estimated 14.8 millions of Americans who use drugs hold down a job.(5) But addiction is insidious. Without treatment, addiction will cascade into other parts of their life, negatively affecting their career and relationships.

5. Once you’re addicted, there’s no hope.

It’s estimated that one in 10 American adults are in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse problems.(6) Addiction affects more people than we realize, and it’s nothing to feel hopeless or ashamed about. Recovering from substance dependency is a difficult process full of challenges, but it is possible. Addiction treatment is unique in that it requires ongoing care, but it works–if an individual is committed to doing the work.

6. If you relapse, you’ll never be able to stay clean.

Addiction is a chronic disease, and unfortunately, relapse is a part of being in treatment or recovery. However, it’s not a sign of failure or that a person is going to be an addict forever. It’s a sign that more treatment and support are needed. What matters is how a person responds.

Don’t let the myths and misconceptions surrounding opioid use disorder prevent you or someone you love from seeking help because long-term recovery is possible. If one thing is clear, it’s that you are not alone. Contact Boca Detox Center at 561-271-7612 to learn more about how our services can help you heal.