Myths and Facts About Substance Abuse

Addictive substances surround us — whether it’s the nicotine in cigarettes, the alcohol in your cocktail, or the opioids in your painkillers. When any of these substances are misused, it can quickly lead to the addiction and dependency that are the hallmarks of a substance use disorder.

As pain management specialists, we here at Comprehensive Pain Management understand the substance use problem very well. To provide solutions, our team, with Drs. Do Chan and Boris Shwartzman at the helm, offers substance abuse help, including treatments for those who develop a problem.

To help you better understand the slippery slope of substance use, here’s a look at some of the myths and facts surrounding substance abuse.

Words matter

The first thing to understand about substance use is that the terminology is often misused. To clear up a few points, here’s a look at the words you should know:

Substance abuse or misuse

This problem doesn’t necessarily mean that addiction or dependency is in play yet. Substance abuse or misuse typically means that you’re using a substance in a way that isn’t prescribed, legal, or “normal.”


This is one aspect of substance use and refers to your body’s dependency upon the substance, as witnessed by the withdrawal symptoms you encounter when you stop.


Addiction is the most insidious aspect of a substance use disorder, as your brain’s neural pathways are changed in a way that favors substance use (uncontrollable cravings and the inability to quit, as examples).

Myth: A substance use disorder is not a disease

This statement is patently false. According to the American Society Addiction Medicine, addiction is “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social, and spiritual manifestations.”

In other words, a substance use disorder isn’t a choice, even though choices may have been made along the way that led to the disease, much like smoking and lung disease. Even the strongest-willed among us can succumb to a substance use disorder.

Fact: Substance abuse problems are progressive

This is true. Most substance abuse disorders start out innocently enough, but with prolonged use or misuse, the issue can quickly turn the corner into addiction and dependency. 

For example, let’s take opioid use. Research reveals that between 21-29% of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain use them improperly. Of those who take opioids for pain, 8-12% develop an opioid use disorder and 4-6% who misuse prescription opioids go on to use heroin.

There’s no cure for substance use disorders

This statement is both true and false. A substance use disorder is considered a lifelong affliction and sobriety is a remission. If you break the cycle of addiction and dependency, you can go on to lead a happy and productive life, free from the prison that your substance use has placed you in. In that regard, sobriety and vigilance can be considered a “cure.”

The first steps to breaking these chains are the hardest, and that's where our team comes in. We can help you with medication management as well as supply you with the resources you need, such as Suboxone®, which eases early recovery from opioids.

If you have more questions about the proper way to use substances and what to do if you suspect a problem is developing, please contact one of our offices in Attleboro or Franklin, Massachusetts, or South Kingstown or Warwick, Rhode Island.

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