Drug and Alcohol Abuse: Debunking the Myths: Part I

In preparation for the National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, January 25th through the 31st, we bring to mind the myths, misconceptions, and the absurdities about Alcohol and other drugs of abuse; to provide you with the true facts surrounding drugs in order to bring about awareness and prevention efforts.

The week’s celebration is collaboration with the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute of Alcohol abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

According to the National Institute of Health, and its agencies, the National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week long observance was launched in 2010 to counteract the myths about drugs and alcohol that teens often hear from the Internet, TV, movies, music, or friends.

They report that since the inception of the number of community-based events has grown dramatically, with more than 1,500 held last January throughout all 50 states and several international sites.

So many activities have grown since the initial year a website was introduced, that a website has been introduced: National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week Web Portal, which gives out a lot of information and is quite interactive.

There are a number of free brochures available, quizzes for that youth and their families can take to test their knowledge about alcohol and other drugs, a chat room where youth may interact with NIDA and NIAAA scientists, school and other community projects and events. The brochure designed for the yearly event, “Drugs: Shatter the Myths,” is free to everyone who registers at the site, and I can assure you that it is an excellent booklet.

Despite the efforts we have made in Drug and Alcohol education over the years, the myths and misconceptions continue to abound in our society. I still hear people say: “I drive better after a few beers,” “marijuana is not addictive,” “I only drink beer, I will never be an alcoholic,” “alcohol is not a drug and is safer to use than real drugs,” “misuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs is less harmful than using other drugs,” “cold showers and black coffee can sober up a drunk person,” “natural drugs, like marijuana, are safe to use than synthetic ones,” “if you have a stable job and family life, you’re not addicted,” “drug addiction is a choice,” “addicts are really very bad people,” “you have to use drugs for a long time before they can really hurt you,” “you can stop using drugs anytime,” teenagers are too young to become addicted,” “cocaine is only addictive if you inject it,” “pot isn’t as bad for you as cigarettes,” “drugs relieve stress. They help deal with problems,”etc.; are all examples of myths and misconceptions that perpetuate in our society and must be overcome.

They are myths because they are not true and factual, they are based on faulty assumptions; misconceptions because they are skewed and false beliefs, and perpetuated by those who use the drugs and act on defense mechanisms such as denial and rationalization, and/or those individuals who just are not aware of the facts; or those who are aware of the facts but choose not to believe them (“don’t try to confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up.”).

Those individuals working in the fields of drug and alcohol abuse prevention and treatment efforts, school districts, and other agencies have had a lengthy history of providing much needed education to youth and adults concerning the myths and misconceptions about substances of abuse. Their efforts have not been in vain, if for nothing less than helping to reinforce the consequences of abuse among those individuals who are non-drug users …helping them to accept the idea of not using in the first place…and of course teaching and counseling those individuals in treatment to work on their addictions.

In addition, there have been literally thousands of pamphlets, brochures, and books to aid in prevention efforts. Yet, in the true course of the efforts and despite the barriers along the way, headway has been slow.

When I first wrote my book “Straight Talk: Answers to Questions Young People Ask about Alcohol,” in the late 1970s, substance abuse prevention and treatment efforts were well underway in our nation, yet still in its “infancy” as a matter of time. I was most pleased that the book did so well. Now, in its 3rd edition, the book has been widely used in the U.S. and some other nations, in prevention and treatment efforts.

I would that this book could be made available to everyone, as I have often wrote about; as it portrays an accurate picture of just one facet of our Nations problem, alcohol abuse and alcoholism, real questions raised by young people and true professional answers to their questions.

There are a lot of really great books, and internet information, out there to help individuals and families have their questions answered about drug and alcohol abuse…they just have to be willing to face and accept this most serious problem and take action.

I hope you take advantage of ordering/downloading the booklet previously mentioned; “Drugs: Shatter the Myths” through the National Alcohol and Drug Abuse Facts Week site, and take part in planned activities. I will give a complimentary copy of my book “Straight Talk…,” while my supplies last to any agency or organization requesting. My e-mail is listed below.

Next week, in Part II of this article, I will present responses to the myths and misconceptions previously mentioned. Until then, Stay Healthy my Friends!

Dr. Ralph E. Jones