From an outsider's perspective, it is easy to assume that substance abusers have completely lost their minds. In one sense, they have since it is now consumed by the addiction that governs his actions. The bizarre choices and erratic behaviors that stem from addiction can be startling to those who have not experienced addiction themselves.
However, when the sober mind judges an addicted mind, there are naturally numerous misconceptions that lead to damaging stereotypes about addicts that are not necessarily true. The media and entertainment industries have helped perpetuate many falsities about addiction and the traits of an addict. Although many users share the same experiences, when it comes to the deeper workings of the mind, no two addicts are exactly alike.
If you walk into any A.A. meeting, you will see that there is no single trait that every member possesses. There are varying ethnicities, socioeconomic levels and age groups represented, which shows that there is no commonality between the group members--other than the fact that they shared the same addiction.
Here are the 6 worst assumptions or stereotypes given to drug addicts or alcoholics:
For centuries drug addicts and alcoholics were looked at as ‘weak’ individuals who did not possess enough will power to simply abstain from using. As the medical field has since proven, addiction is an actual disease that has little to do with an individual’s will or strength of character. Most of the time the opposite is true, in that addicts are strong individuals who will literally stop at nothing to obtain their fix. Stubbornness and an unwillingness to stop using are qualities that do not necessarily constitute weakness.
2. Once a Junkie Always a Junkie
The notion that a person cannot change their ways is a generalization that is often applied to addicts. While there are those who will never manage to get sober, there are also those who have had decades of sobriety and are now outstanding members of the community. These people have found and hung onto recovery, allowing them to trun their lives around. Their coworkers or bosses might not even realize that the individual in question used to be a substance abuser.
3. A Drunk Is a Drunk
Contrary to popular belief, not all drinkers are perpetual drunks. There are different kinds of alcoholics that can be classified by their drinking habits. While there are the stereotypical ‘daily drinkers’ who can be consistently found in bars, there are also the occasional or binge drinkers who can abstain for long periods of time only to get completely drunk on rare occasions. Alongside these two are the functional alcoholics, who may appear to be perfectly upstanding citizens, except when alcohol is ingested.
Due to characterizations seen in the media and popular entertainment, specific drugs are often mistakenly attributed to different ethnic groups or types of users. For example, a meth-head is commonly associated with the Caucasian "trailer trash" population, while a crack-head is commonly associated with African Americans living in the "inner-city." The media has perpetuated these two stereotypes. As stated earlier, substance abusers come in all colors, shapes and sizes, and can never be categorized into a specific ethnicity or sub-set of the general population.
5. Homelessness Is a Result of Addiction
The homeless are frequently assumed to be substance abusers when, in reality, many suffer from mental illness or other problems. The old stereotype of a homeless man sitting in an alley sipping on whiskey is generally more fiction than it is fact. The assumption that all homeless people have ended up on the street due to substance abuse is a generalization, and doesn't account for those who suffer from mental illness or have encountered financial difficulties or other life circumstance that led to their homelessness.
Though this stereotype should be contradicted by the functional alcoholic, many people in the general population believe that substance abusers lack intelligence. This is a falsity for a number of reasons, but primarily because substance abuse is centered in a different part of the brain than intelligence is. While it may seem logical that an intelligent person would be smart enough to choose not to become an addict, the fact is that the physiology and psychology of addiction doesn't really work that way.