There are many alcohol myths as alcohol is a substance that people often and commonly consume. It’s legal and fairly easy to access as restaurants and grocery stores all sell it. While most people tend to use alcohol without excess, some people have trouble limiting their alcohol intake. This is due to a disease called alcoholism or alcohol use disorder. It’s an uncontrollable dependence on alcohol that many people suffer from.
But, when it comes to alcohol use disorder, individuals are often unsure of what it means to suffer from it. This leads people to believe in myths about alcoholism. But, whether you think you or someone you know suffers from alcohol use disorder, it’s important to know the truth about alcoholism. It’s time to debunk the alcohol myths you may have heard.
Myth 1: “Alcohol dependence is a choice.”
It’s very unlikely that anyone who has a tolerance for alcohol or is dependent on it ever meant to be in that position. When an individual becomes dependent on alcohol, it means that his or her body struggles to function without alcohol. People who struggle with alcohol dependence are unable to control the amount of alcohol they consume. This is due to changes in the brain’s chemical composition.
Alcohol can negatively affect neurotransmitters within a person’s brain and body. This substance can also prevent the brain’s chemical symptoms from sending and receiving signals from each other. (This is what usually causes people to have slurred speech or impaired judgment when they drink.)
When an individual drinks alcohol, he or she may eventually build a tolerance for the substance. This is not at all uncommon. But, what happens after that tolerance occurs is important as tolerance can lead to addiction. The simple explanation of tolerance is as follows:
A person has a tolerance for alcohol if he or she needs to drink more alcohol in order to achieve the same effect that a smaller amount of alcohol used to produce. In other words, to be tolerant of alcohol is similar to being used to its effects. So, individuals who build a tolerance for alcohol stop feeling the effects of it. In order to experience the desired effects again, they need to consume larger amounts of the substance.
It’s important to understand that many people don’t realize that tolerance is developing. So, eventually, tolerance may give way to dependence as people may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms when they’re not drinking. These symptoms can prevent people from feeling “normal”, as though they can’t function without alcohol. This means that they suffer from alcohol dependence or alcoholism.
Myth 2: “You can overcome alcoholism if you try hard enough.”
This is a fairly common yet harmful myth. Again, people who suffer from alcoholism do not choose to do so. While willpower and self-motivation are certainly important in recovery, individuals who struggle with substance dependence also need help from other sources. In the end, self-control and willpower are not exactly what will end or prevent substance dependence.
As mentioned before, alcohol dependence is a matter of the brain; people who suffer from alcoholism have a physiological dependence on alcohol. So, simply choosing to stop drinking isn’t enough. Often, people who want to overcome substance abuse can only do so with the help of a professional treatment program. In these cases, individuals may need more than “willpower” to end substance dependence.
There’s a common misconception about the “appearance” of a person who struggles with alcohol use disorder. People tend to believe that it’s easy to identify alcoholism. It’s easy to assume that the only people who suffer from this issue are those who may have lost their jobs, homes, and money. But, alcohol use disorder doesn’t look the same for everyone who suffers from it.
Some people continue to hold jobs throughout their struggle with alcohol use disorder. Some continue to take care of their families and homes despite their battle with addiction. So, it’s important to avoid only looking for “rock bottom” signs, such as home loss or unemployment. Instead, it’s best to seek signs such as:
- Memory lapses
- Loss of appetite
- Inability to focus
- Changes in weight
- Excuses regarding alcohol use
- Isolation and social withdrawal
- Alcohol use to cope with stress
- Inconsistent or irregular emotions
- Defensiveness about drinking habits
- Inability to stick to alcohol use limitations
- Plans that seem to revolve around alcohol
- Increased tolerance (i.e. ability to “handle more” than usual)
- Withdrawal symptoms (headaches, appetite loss, anxiety, etc.)
If you’ve noticed any of these signs in your life, it may be time to seek help for alcohol use disorder. Also, if you have ever thought that you might have an alcohol dependency, it’s possible that you are dealing with addiction.
Myth 4: “If I drink a little too much, I can just drink coffee and I’ll feel better in no time.”
People often shrug off the intoxicating effects of alcohol by saying that they can simply drink coffee or “sleep it off”. But, alcohol can remain in your system for hours. So, no matter what a person does in order to eliminate the effects of alcohol on their body, the impact of this substance will remain.
Myth 5: “The type of alcohol determines the severity of the addiction.”
Often, individuals think that drinking beer (as opposed to hard liquor) is not likely to lead to alcohol dependence. Some may even feel that it’s not harmful to drink wine excessively. But, there are many people who currently suffer from the effects of alcoholism after developing a dependence on wine. Alcohol in any type of beverage can be addictive.
Also, many people assume that alcoholism isn’t as “serious” as, say, heroin dependence. Or, perhaps dependency on legal substances such as prescription drugs isn’t as “severe” as dependency on cocaine. But, this ideology is both untrue and harmful. It can lead people to misuse “less harmful” substances and, eventually, develop substance dependencies. It might also lead people to minimize the effects of risky alcohol use or prescription misuse.
When it comes to addiction, it’s important to avoid using a “level” system. Alcohol use disorders are serious, regardless of the type of substance people may use. So, whether a person is suffering from risky alcohol use, prescription drug misuse, or cocaine dependence, seeking help is absolutely necessary.
Myth 6: “Once a person develops substance dependency, he or she will always struggle with it.”
While it’s certainly true that recovery is a lifelong process, individuals who overcome addiction do not have to live with the fear of relapse forever. Those who suffer from a substance use disorder may need to be intentional about avoiding triggers and any other situations that could encourage relapse. However, the idea that a person will continuously suffer from alcohol misuse even after treatment simply isn’t true.
Myth 7: “Addiction only affects people of certain age groups.”
Many people believe that older individuals can’t develop substance use disorders. They may also believe that substance dependence doesn’t really affect young users. But, this isn’t true. Addiction can impact the lives of people of all ages, including seniors and young adults.
When it comes to substance dependence, it is important to understand that this disorder can affect anyone who drinks in any capacity. So, having the mentality that addiction won’t become a reality in your life is dangerous.
Myth 8: “I can still drink alcohol to help me sleep or relieve stress.”
In many cases, people develop alcohol dependence as a result of self-medication. In other words, people who turn to alcohol use in order to cope with issues such as insomnia, stress, or depression.
When an individual goes through treatment for alcohol misuse, it’s highly probable, even inevitable, that stress and sleep disturbances will continue to occur. People who are in recovery may be tempted to use alcohol in order to deal with these issues. After all, they may believe that this method of self-medication worked before. They may feel as though they can still drink alcohol for these purposes as long as they “limit consumption”.
But, those who are in recovery from alcohol use disorder may struggle to place or stand by a limit on the amount of alcohol they consume. The brain and body may respond to alcohol in a negative way, desiring more and more of the substance and leading to physical relapse.
Myth 9: “Alcohol use disorder only affects the individuals who suffer from it.”
This is one alcohol myth that is completely untrue. Many people think addiction only impacts the lives of those who struggle with it. Substance dependence has a way of causing behavioral changes to occur in the lives of those who suffer from this disease. These changes can cause people to act differently toward their family members and friends. Behavioral changes may also prevent people from being able to connect with their loved ones.
Sometimes, addiction can cause people to become irritable, angry, and even violent. Their family members and friends may suffer because of these occurrences. Previously healthy relationships may begin to fall apart. Spouses may drift away from the partners who struggle with substance dependence. Children may not feel comfortable around their struggling parents. Addiction can cause separation to occur within even the closest family units.
It can be beyond difficult to see someone you love suffer from the effects of alcohol dependence. So, if your family is currently struggling with a family member’s addiction, it’s important to seek support and guidance. While counseling and treatment will certainly be helpful for your loved one, your family can also benefit from these things. Family therapy is one of the best ways for families to find healing as individuals recover from substance dependence.
Myth 10: “I can just quit alcohol misuse without getting help.”
The “cold-turkey” approach is no stranger in the world of substance dependence recovery. It’s quite common for people to try to quit using alcohol abruptly without getting help from professionals. This is often thought of as the cheapest way to overcome substance dependence. However, this is often the least safe way to end alcohol use.
It’s important for people to seek professional help in order to overcome alcoholism. There are several reasons for this, including the following:
- Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be intense and, in some cases, harmful. So, people who want to end alcohol use may not be able to do it “cold turkey”. Instead, professional detox and treatment programs may be necessary in order to help with the process.
- Support will be absolutely necessary throughout the recovery process. Individuals can get the support and guidance they need through a treatment program.
- It’s likely that those who have a substance use disorder have specific underlying causes. These underlying reasons for addiction will only remain in place if a person chooses to end substance use without professional guidance. So, it’s important to identify and address these underlying causes in order to help individuals to remain free from alcohol use disorder.
- Some people may have dual diagnoses (mental health disorders and substance dependence). Co-occurring disorders exist, it’s possible that the disorders affect each other. For example, a person may use alcohol to self-medicate the symptoms of major depressive disorder. In this case, his or her depression will still remain, even if alcohol isn’t in the mix anymore. This could lead the individual to relapse or use another substance in order to cope with depression. Professional treatment can help to address dual diagnosis cases.
Needless to say, professional treatment may be best for those who want to end alcoholism in their lives.
Defying the Myths of Alcoholism: Overcome Alcohol Use Disorder Today
Maybe you have heard many of these alcohol myths before. Perhaps, some of them have prevented you from seeking help for alcohol dependence. If so, know that you are not alone; many others have struggled to get past these thinking processes and determine the best course of action for their recovery. But, help is available for everyone who needs it. So, if you’re unsure about how to end substance misuse in your life or you’re simply not sure whether or not you need help, we’re here for you.
At Sana Lake Recovery Center, we understand the many challenges people face when dealing with substance dependence. Alcohol use disorder is serious and can cause major issues in the lives of those who suffer from it. So, if you have been dealing with the effects of alcoholism, now is the time to reach out for help.
Contact us here at Sana Lake to speak with professionals who can both understand your struggle and work to provide solutions. Take a step toward a healthier, addiction-free future today!