Dispelling Myths

Myth: If a person needs higher doses of painkillers or have withdrawal symptoms when they quit, it means they are addicted.

Reality: That is not how doctors and addiction specialists define addiction. Anyone can develop tolerance and/or dependence to a medication, and that does necessarily not mean they are addicted. If people experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking painkillers they should be under a doctor’s care.

Myth: All people will get addicted to painkillers if they take them long enough.

Reality: Most people use prescription medications correctly and do not develop addiction. Warning signs include raising the dose without consulting a doctor, or going to numerous doctors to get prescriptions without informing them that they are getting prescriptions elsewhere. Trying to diagnose early signs of addiction in yourself or another person can be difficult.

Myth: It’s better to bear the pain than to risk addiction.

Reality: Under-treating pain can cause avoidable suffering. People experiencing pain should speak with health professionals, including doctors.

Myth: Doctors will ensure people don’t become addicted to prescription drugs.

Reality: Doctors don’t want their patients to become addicted. But they may not have had sufficient training in addiction, or specifically, in pain management. There are many cases where people have developed dependency and/or addiction to drugs prescribed to them by doctors for pain and/or mental health relief. Patients should seek information about their prescriptions and work with their doctors.

Myth:  Methadone is only replacing one drug addiction with another.

Reality: Taking methadone medication as prescribed by a doctor is not an “addiction”. It is true that patients may become physically dependent on it and would have withdrawal symptoms if the medication was stopped. However, that is true of many other prescription medicines. Methadone, and other forms of Opioid Replacement Therapy (ORT), enables people to regain a normal state of mind, and participate more fully in life. There are more than 46,000 people on ORT in Australia.

Myth: Addiction, including to alcohol, can be resolved without the use of medications or other forms of professional treatment if the person truly wants to change. Methadone is just a “crutch” for people who don’t want to work at recovery.

Reality: Long-term addiction to alcohol and other drugs results in prolonged and, often permanent changes in the brain’s biochemistry. It’s the change in brain chemistry that creates cravings and sometimes depression that can last for many years, which contributes to what can be – but not always – repeated relapses. The desire to change does not immediately alter brain biochemistry

Myth: People must reach “rock bottom” before they are ready for help.

Reality: People can and do seek help at any point. It’s easier to be helped before the problem has become serious.

Myth: The only person who can help someone is themselves.

Reality: It may be true that nobody else can “make” someone else get better. But it’s proven that a great many – but certainly not all – people who manage to reduce or even cease harmful alcohol or other drug misuse do so after accessing professional help or other forms of support, including groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

© 2013 Lucid