Myths About Addiction That Prevent Families from Helping [List]

Start Healing today, call (888) 906-0952

Medically Reviewed by:

Dr. Patricia Sullivan, MD MPH

Article Overview

 Understanding A Loved One’s Addiction

Just like so many other difficult topics, something as complex as addiction is subject to misleading information. There are probably hundreds of myths about addiction. Some of these myths began over 100 years ago when substances were banned for the first time. However, as the decades have passed, a lot of this hand-me-down knowledge has been proven wrong. This information hasn’t received the same level of attention as addiction itself, though. So, as a society, we continue to hand down incorrect information from generation to generation.

The problem? Some of these myths can be detrimental to the well-being of you and your loved one. Often, they prevent seeking out proper help and contribute to unhealthy interpersonal relationships.

We know being the family member of someone who uses illegal substances can be difficult. It can be overwhelming learning how to best support your loved one.

If someone you know is struggling with addiction, talk to one of our specialists at (888) 906-0952

Read on to learn more about the myths that may be holding you back from truly helping someone you care about find help for addiction.

Article Contents

Myth 1: Smart People Can’t Be Addicts

One of the more popular myths about addiction has to do with intelligence. The ability to have an addiction does not relate to a lack of intelligence. When we think of smart people, we often think of those who do well in life. We relate visible success to a concept of “having it all,” which makes us wonder why a smart person would ever need drugs.

However, studies have shown those with a higher IQ are more likely to succumb to addiction. In many ways, the same pathways in their brain that contribute to their success are the same pathways that drive addiction. Researchers have known for quite a while that stress is a breeding ground for addiction. This desire to succeed and be the best contributes to the stress levels, which leads many people to addictive substances. This is also why we see such high levels of addiction in white-collar workers. Many people assume white-collar workers don’t use drugs because they’re smart enough to know better.

It’s not unbelievable for a doctor to become addicted to a substance. They have jobs with high levels of stress. Decisions they make can affect a person for the rest of their life. That’s itself is a pretty heavy thing to bear. When a patient dies, doctors may blame themselves. It’s not uncommon for a doctor to deliver bad news about finding cancer or telling someone their loved one has passed. Even though doctors are “smart enough to know better” when it comes to addiction, they still fall prey to these substances. They are seeking an escape from the stress of their jobs and their lives like so many people.

Myth 2: They Keep Relapsing. Obviously, They Aren’t Serious About Stopping.

This is false. A relapse doesn’t indicate the level of desire to get off a substance. When it comes to addiction, relapsing is so familiar it is part of the definition. While some people can be successful in recovery with just one try, most people suffering from addiction will need a few attempts.

It’s easy to mistake a relapse for lack of willpower. However, will has nothing to do with addiction recovery or relapsing. Addiction is a disease of the brain. Throughout addiction, the brain rewires itself to seek out the substance. Simply said, if the brain loves something, it learns to crave it. If the brain is used to having this substance daily, it seeks to maintain the status quo.

Recovery is challenging for those who struggle with addiction. Those struggling with addiction receive guidelines instructing them to give up the substances they’ve come to rely upon. The substance that has brought them relief until now is no longer an option. They have to give up everything and everyone they’ve come to rely on throughout the course of their addiction. This often means losing friendships, no longer spending time at their favorite place, leaning on that substance after a long day.

Beyond this, their brain and body are going through withdrawals. On top of this, they must learn new skills and find out they may have underlying mental health conditions. This change is a lot to take on in a short period. In the beginning, some feel great about making the change. However, within a few months, the weight of finding a job, abstaining at all costs, proving to the family they can be trusted again, and coming across as a responsible member of society can get overwhelming. Some do relapse and start back at step one. Eventually, many will get the hang of recovery. They will overcome the hurdles of addiction and go on to live a happy, healthy life.

Myth 3: They “Just” Have a Bad Habit

Using an addictive substance can seem like a habit—a bad habit. But addiction is more complicated than a habit. Habits are something that almost happens naturally. Our habits settle into our lives and become almost unnoticeable. They are so natural it’s second nature, like putting on clothes or tying your shoes.

However, every aspect of your life becomes focused on how and when you can drink or use again. You become obsessed with accessibility to the substance and maneuver things that would ordinarily be important to you to accommodate this need. With addiction, you are willing to make sacrifices to accomplish the end goal. When you break a habit, you don’t feel a severe punishment. Maybe your day feels off, or you feel a little different, but it can be quickly fixed or forgotten with repetition and dedication.

When some stop using an addictive substance, they have withdrawals. The symptoms that accompany withdrawal are not easy to grapple with. Some might have seizures, or something worse. Habits do not create these kinds of repercussions when missed.

When breaking an addiction, the environment has to change. The person with an addiction has to remove anything that might trigger the urge to use it again. However, when changing a habit, the environment does not have to change. It’s just not the same. Addiction is much more serious and deadly than a simple habit.

Myth 4: “They’re Only Experimenting like All Young People”.

While this may be possible now, it can and does quickly change overnight. Teen and young adults safely being able to experiment is a common misconception about drugs. The roots of addiction can take hold at an early age, with minimal exposure. Even if they only use occasionally, there’s still a chance the brain is being primed for addiction later on.

Researchers know most addicts start using in adolescence. When family members stand-by and allow experimentation, it only primes the pathway for more substance abuse. In most cases, substance abuse is fueled by peer pressure or trauma. Sometimes both. If your son or daughter is using illegal substances, it’s crucial to understand why they are using.

As with most teens and young adults, there is a strong desire to lie and deny any difficulties they may be having. Even when you know they are using, they will still deny the seriousness of the situation at hand. Suppose they aren’t willing to discuss this with you. In that case, it might be time to take your son or daughter to a therapist specializing in substance abuse—especially if there are concerns about trauma fueling their desire to use.

Understanding the facts about drug use is essential. Changes in the brain happen every time they use an illicit substance. Over time the pathways of the brain get rewired. Something that used to bring joy to your son or daughter will barely make them smile. Their brain learns only to be happy when using drugs or alcohol.

No parent wants to admit their child has a problem with drugs. In reality, believing they’re only using because it’s normal for kids to push boundaries and try these things is a form of denial in itself. Denying a problem only allows the problem to gain momentum. Denial keeps people from seeking help early on when it’s easier to quit and change the course with minimal intervention.

If your teen is experimenting with drugs or alcohol, it’s essential to get them help immediately. Making this decision is not easy, but it must be done.

Myth 5: I Need to Help Them

Tread carefully. When someone sets out with intentions to help someone with an addiction, it often turns into enabling.

It’s only natural, wanting to help a loved one with their addiction. Watching a family member get sucked into drugs and alcohol is traumatic and not everyone can understand. Many times, when someone is trying to help a person with an addiction, they support the addiction itself.

Common Signs You’re Enabling an Addiction:

  • You are providing them with money.
  • You are downplaying the severity of the problem to yourself and everyone else.
  • You are lying for them.
  • You are rationalizing their behavior.
  • You find yourself making excuses as a way to cover for them.

While it’s important to support someone with an addiction as they seek treatment, it’s also important to not support the addiction itself. If your loved one swears to look for treatment tomorrow, then tomorrow, you offer to sit down with this person and find a treatment center together.

In the short-term, while they are beginning to receive treatment, it’s OK to offer them support. Giving someone with addiction rides to appointments is an excellent way to show support without enabling their addiction. However, it’s also critical to know you may be allowing them to buy drugs or alcohol if you provide money directly to them for gas or other bills.

Someone with an addiction needs to have support from their family. It’s OK to ask if they are attending a support group. Or offer to help them move into their place. But it’s never a good idea to provide them with anything that would help make procuring and using drugs and alcohol easier for them. Besides, enabling your loved one will take a toll on mental, physical, and financial aspects of your life. Make sure you are getting the support you need while navigating this new territory.

About the Author

Krystina Wagner

Born and raised in Arizona, Krystina is graduate of Arizona State University with a degree in Technical Communication. She is passionate about recovery and healthcare and has a passion for taking complicated medical information and transforming it into something anyone can understand.

More Help Guides

Get Started


Contact us today for questions about treatment, addiction, and recovery.

— FAQ Title?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Praesent egestas dui aliquam tincidunt ultricies. Vestibulum dignissim erat pretium, finibus purus vitae, porttitor arcu. Mauris hendrerit sollicitudin varius. Curabitur in turpis elit. Nam suscipit ac lacus sed pharetra. Nunc hendrerit posuere mauris sed maximus. Etiam quis sapien in lorem auctor mattis eget eu massa. Donec id enim posuere, viverra nisi id, porta nibh. Aliquam eget malesuada sem. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Sed cursus hendrerit arcu sit amet interdum. Morbi quis tortor vel metus aliquet accumsan id feugiat magna. Suspendisse fringilla dictum tortor id faucibus. Vestibulum in auctor mi, vitae ultrices neque.

Duis eleifend purus et posuere iaculis. Suspendisse id nibh sit amet ex efficitur gravida. Vestibulum sit amet tellus eu libero cursus faucibus eget quis quam. Phasellus non mauris felis. Suspendisse neque ipsum, tincidunt non quam non, lobortis hendrerit justo. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia curae; Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Sed euismod accumsan dui, a dignissim ante. Nullam nisl nisi, tristique sed ultricies in, condimentum non nunc. Nulla vehicula sit amet nulla non finibus. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Nulla nec tristique nibh. Maecenas ullamcorper eleifend maximus. In non ante sed nulla tincidunt posuere. Pellentesque risus elit, semper non felis quis, cursus bibendum enim.

— FAQ Title?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Praesent egestas dui aliquam tincidunt ultricies. Vestibulum dignissim erat pretium, finibus purus vitae, porttitor arcu. Mauris hendrerit sollicitudin varius. Curabitur in turpis elit. Nam suscipit ac lacus sed pharetra. Nunc hendrerit posuere mauris sed maximus. Etiam quis sapien in lorem auctor mattis eget eu massa. Donec id enim posuere, viverra nisi id, porta nibh. Aliquam eget malesuada sem. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Sed cursus hendrerit arcu sit amet interdum. Morbi quis tortor vel metus aliquet accumsan id feugiat magna. Suspendisse fringilla dictum tortor id faucibus. Vestibulum in auctor mi, vitae ultrices neque.

Duis eleifend purus et posuere iaculis. Suspendisse id nibh sit amet ex efficitur gravida. Vestibulum sit amet tellus eu libero cursus faucibus eget quis quam. Phasellus non mauris felis. Suspendisse neque ipsum, tincidunt non quam non, lobortis hendrerit justo. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia curae; Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Sed euismod accumsan dui, a dignissim ante. Nullam nisl nisi, tristique sed ultricies in, condimentum non nunc. Nulla vehicula sit amet nulla non finibus. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Nulla nec tristique nibh. Maecenas ullamcorper eleifend maximus. In non ante sed nulla tincidunt posuere. Pellentesque risus elit, semper non felis quis, cursus bibendum enim.

— FAQ Title?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Praesent egestas dui aliquam tincidunt ultricies. Vestibulum dignissim erat pretium, finibus purus vitae, porttitor arcu. Mauris hendrerit sollicitudin varius. Curabitur in turpis elit. Nam suscipit ac lacus sed pharetra. Nunc hendrerit posuere mauris sed maximus. Etiam quis sapien in lorem auctor mattis eget eu massa. Donec id enim posuere, viverra nisi id, porta nibh. Aliquam eget malesuada sem. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Sed cursus hendrerit arcu sit amet interdum. Morbi quis tortor vel metus aliquet accumsan id feugiat magna. Suspendisse fringilla dictum tortor id faucibus. Vestibulum in auctor mi, vitae ultrices neque.

Duis eleifend purus et posuere iaculis. Suspendisse id nibh sit amet ex efficitur gravida. Vestibulum sit amet tellus eu libero cursus faucibus eget quis quam. Phasellus non mauris felis. Suspendisse neque ipsum, tincidunt non quam non, lobortis hendrerit justo. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia curae; Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Sed euismod accumsan dui, a dignissim ante. Nullam nisl nisi, tristique sed ultricies in, condimentum non nunc. Nulla vehicula sit amet nulla non finibus. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Nulla nec tristique nibh. Maecenas ullamcorper eleifend maximus. In non ante sed nulla tincidunt posuere. Pellentesque risus elit, semper non felis quis, cursus bibendum enim.

— FAQ Title?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Praesent egestas dui aliquam tincidunt ultricies. Vestibulum dignissim erat pretium, finibus purus vitae, porttitor arcu. Mauris hendrerit sollicitudin varius. Curabitur in turpis elit. Nam suscipit ac lacus sed pharetra. Nunc hendrerit posuere mauris sed maximus. Etiam quis sapien in lorem auctor mattis eget eu massa. Donec id enim posuere, viverra nisi id, porta nibh. Aliquam eget malesuada sem. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Sed cursus hendrerit arcu sit amet interdum. Morbi quis tortor vel metus aliquet accumsan id feugiat magna. Suspendisse fringilla dictum tortor id faucibus. Vestibulum in auctor mi, vitae ultrices neque.

Duis eleifend purus et posuere iaculis. Suspendisse id nibh sit amet ex efficitur gravida. Vestibulum sit amet tellus eu libero cursus faucibus eget quis quam. Phasellus non mauris felis. Suspendisse neque ipsum, tincidunt non quam non, lobortis hendrerit justo. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia curae; Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Sed euismod accumsan dui, a dignissim ante. Nullam nisl nisi, tristique sed ultricies in, condimentum non nunc. Nulla vehicula sit amet nulla non finibus. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Nulla nec tristique nibh. Maecenas ullamcorper eleifend maximus. In non ante sed nulla tincidunt posuere. Pellentesque risus elit, semper non felis quis, cursus bibendum enim.

resource information section

Recent Help Articles


Saving Lives Healing Families - badge

Reach Out for Help and Advice

We’ve looked at many misconceptions about drugs. Having a loved one struggling with an addiction is difficult. It’s hard to know what to do for every interaction. It’s hard to see the difference between supporting someone and enabling someone. Recognizing you or a loved one might be in denial is tough to process.

Sometimes it’s hard to understand and acknowledge all the myths about substance abuse. In many ways, these myths about addiction are the opposite of everything we’ve known or understood. One of the best things you can do while a loved one goes through addiction is to find an outlet for yourself. Many people who have a family member struggling with addiction will seek out a therapist.

In reality, therapists are the best ones to help guide you through these challenging times. They offer suggestions on how to handle certain situations. Therapists will sit back and quietly listen when all you need is for someone to listen to you. Their goal is to help you navigate the stress of loving someone who is in active addiction.

There is a lot to learn, especially when it comes to addiction myths and facts. It’s hard to know what the best actions are every time.

If you know someone struggling with addiction and you would like help supporting them, call one of our specialists at 1 (888) 906-0952.

Get Help Now (888)-906-0952

phone icon

Get Help now:
1-888-906-0952