6 Myths Parents Often Believe About Addiction

Olivia Pennelle
Calendar icon Last Updated: 03/31/2022
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Parents often believe myths about addiction to protect their children.

But there can be a huge gap between what we think we know about addiction and what we truly understand about the science of addiction. And this is especially true for parents. A lot of the drugs that kids are experimenting with and abusing these days are different from the substances kids abused 20 or 30 years ago.

A lot of the myths and misconceptions about addiction can lead to stigmatizing our children. And as parents, we never want to withhold our support.

Rather than rely on what we think is true — and inadvertently harm those we love — let’s review what the experts say about some of the most common misconceptions about addiction.

Common Myths about Addiction

Here are some of the most common myths about addiction.

Myth 1: Children don’t experience behavioral or mental health problems.

This is untrue. According to MentalHealth.gov, even very young children can experience mental and/or behavioral health problems. Sometimes parents are too close to their children to notice early warning signs of mental health concerns.

In fact, before the age of 14, 50 percent of children with mental health disorders first show signs, and 75 percent of disorders begin before the age of 24.

Some mental health disorders can be caused by adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Some common ACEs are:

ACEs are more common than you might think. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that nearly two-thirds of children in the ACE study have reported at least one ACE and one in five reported three or more ACEs.

You may be wondering why ACEs matter. The unfortunate reality is that ACEs are linked to a variety of problems, including:

  • Chronic health issues
  • Mental illness
  • Substance use
  • Relationship problems

Even though these issues are treatable, less than 20 percent of children and adolescents receive the care they need. Not seeking professional help could mean the child will experience other developmental problems and addiction in later life.

Myth 2: Addiction is a choice.

One of the most common myths about addiction is that addiction comes from weakness of character or poor choices. This is simply untrue.

Addiction has nothing to do with being weak, lazy, or morally bankrupt. Many biological, environmental, and childhood factors contribute to mental health problems and addiction.

Some of these issues include:

  • ACEs
  • Genetic factors
  • Growing up in a household where addiction was present
  • Experiencing chronic pain or trauma
  • Having co-occurring issues like other mental health problems

Additionally, when a person uses drugs, it hijacks their brain. Drugs take over the part of the brain responsible for rational choices. Over time, drugs can rewire the brain’s reward center which creates unrelenting drug-seeking behavior despite the negative consequences of addiction.

For example, a person may have enjoyed hanging out with friends and working out. But after using drugs (even recreationally), the brain may eventually prefer to seek substances over healthier choices.

Myth 3: I can get my child to stop their addiction.

Unfortunately, tough love and nagging your kid will probably not get them to stop. This is one of the most common myths. It’s even prevalent in some outdated recovery communities.

What your child may need is support and expert help.

Myth 4: They have to hit rock bottom before they’re ready to get help.

This myth comes from 12-step recovery groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous. Some peer groups believe that a person is only really desperate enough to get help when they’ve exhausted all other options. This is simply untrue.

Substance use disorder exists on a spectrum from mild to moderate to severe. People with addiction can (and do) get help at the less-severe end of the spectrum. They’re often called “gray area drinkers.”

Getting help earlier is encouraged so that the person doesn’t develop chronic health issues. They could also develop other problems, like the loss of a job, family, children, or loved one.

Even if you think you child may not be ready, you can support them and their readiness to change by seeking professional help and avoiding ultimatums.

Myth 5: They’re not using hard drugs.

You may believe that your child is only experimenting with softer drugs like marijuana. However, you may not know the extent of their use or if they have developed a problem.

Teens can be very secretive about drug use.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse in their Monitoring the Future Survey reveals some eye-opening statistics each year. They reported rates of any illicit drug use among teens and found:

  • 32 percent of 12th graders
  • 7 percent of 10th graders
  • 2 percent of 8th graders
  • 25 percent of students reported using at least one illicit drug, including amphetamines, MDMA, LSD, salvia, inhalants, cocaine, cough medicine, or hallucinogens

These statistics show that adolescent drug use is happening. And it’s more serious than you may have thought. Denying these facts can result in your child developing an addiction.

Other findings of the survey indicated:

  • 20 percent of high school students have been offered, sold, or given drugs at school in the past year
  • Marijuana use is at an all-time high among college students, and 16 percent of 12th graders admitted to having used marijuana in the last month
  • High school students use alcohol more than other drugs, with nearly 58 percent of 12th graders have tried alcohol and 14 percent reporting binge drinking
  • 10 percent of students admitted using amphetamines
  • 17 percent of teens rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol
  • Teen alcohol use is responsible for 119,000 ER visits and 4,300 deaths every year

Myth 6: My kid is too young to go to rehab.

There is no right age to go to rehab. There is no age requirement. There are plenty of addiction treatment programs available that specialize in treating adolescents.

Your children can get help at any point. And it is better to seek expert help sooner rather than later.

Early treatment can result in a full recovery and lead to a fulfilling life.

Think of going to rehab at the mild stage of addiction as treating diabetes early. The sooner a person gets control over their diabetes and makes healthy changes, the sooner their body recovers. They may even reverse the problem.

Ready to talk to a treatment specialist? Contact us today at 800-926-9037 (Info iconWho Answers?) to learn about our flexible treatment programs for drug and alcohol addiction.

Images Courtesy of Canva.

Pen iconAuthor
Olivia Pennelle
Olivia Pennelle, BA, Precision Nutrition Coaching I
Freelance Writer, Podcaster & Activist
Located in Portland, OR, Olivia Pennelle (Liv) is a freelance writer, journalist, and content strategist. She is the founder of the popular site Liv’s Recovery Kitchen, a site dedicated to providing the ingredients to live a fulfilling life in recovery. Liv also co-founded the podcast Breaking Free: Your Recovery. Your Way Liv is passionate about challenging limiting mentalities and empowering o