There are many myths that surround the disease of alcoholism. Some of these myths are dangerous since they stand in the way of understanding and helping a friend or loved one who is suffering from alcohol dependency or addiction. Here are some of the most common myths and corresponding realities about alcoholism.
Alcoholism Myth #1: Alcohol is an addictive substance and anyone who drinks in excess can become addicted.
The reality is that alcohol is selectively addictive. All of the causes of alcoholism are not yet known, but researchers do know that only people who are predisposed for alcoholism become addicted. Other people may drink frequently and heavily without becoming alcoholic.
Alcoholism Myth #2: People who become alcoholics are trying to deal with psychological and emotional problems.
Before they begin drinking, alcoholics experience the same problems as many other people. Once they are addicted to alcohol, their problems are aggravated by their condition. Alcoholism makes it much more difficult to deal with life’s problems.
Alcoholism Myth #3: Those who can “hold their liquor” and drink in excess without appearing to be affected are at less risk for alcoholism.
Being able to hold one’s liquor may indicate that the drinker has built a tolerance for alcohol. This is actually one of the early signs of alcoholism.
Alcoholism Myth #4: Alcoholism is a psychological condition that can be overcome with will power.
In reality, alcohol addiction is a physiological condition. Once alcohol abuse has progressed to alcoholism, the physical component of the disease is stronger than the mental component. For heavy drinkers, initial abstinence from alcohol requires medical supervision to avoid the harmful effects of alcohol withdrawal.
Alcoholism Myth #5: An alcoholic must want to be helped in order for treatment to be effective.
Alcoholism affects thought processes and makes it difficult for alcoholics to think rationally. Family members, friends and co-workers often need to participate in an intervention to convince an alcoholic that treatment is needed. Many alcoholics resist treatment and only begin to want to be helped after recovery is underway. Fortunately, research into alcoholism recovery has found that the reason an alcoholic enters treatment is not a predictor of the treatment outcome.
Alcohol abuse is not alcoholism.
Abuse is not necessarily alcoholism.
Alcoholism Myth #6: Confronting and shaming an alcoholic is the best way to get him or her to stop drinking.
According to the National Institutes of Health, treating an alcoholic with compassion and empathy is more effective than confrontation and shame. Family members should help the alcoholic realize how much their drinking is hurting themselves and others and persuade him or her to enter a treatment program.
Alcoholism Myth #7: Since so many recovered alcoholics suffer relapses, the success rate for alcoholism treatment is low.
The reality of alcoholism is that it’s a life-long condition. Alcohol treatment is successful when an alcoholic is able to abstain from alcohol for an extended period. A relapse is not a sign of failure and does not mean that a recovering alcoholic will not be able to return to abstinence.