10 Myths About Addiction & Treatment

doctor treating drug addictionMany people who struggle with compulsive substance use or addiction have tried and failed—sometimes repeatedly—to stop using drugs or alcohol. For many, they may have heard certain myths or misconceptions about treatment and it makes it difficult to reach out for help. Debunking these myths about addiction and treatment can help you get the professional help that can facilitate recovery and usher in a newfound freedom in life.

Myth 1: Anyone can stop taking drugs if they have the willpower.1

Though there is some choice involved when it comes to first-time use of drugs and alcohol, many people believe that continuing to use intoxicating substances is also an entirely voluntary decision for people with substance use disorders.

Some believe that simply ceasing to take a drug and going through withdrawal means they have conquered their addiction. Still others mistakenly believe that cravings shouldn’t be too difficult (or dangerous) for everyone to manage without help.

No one expects a person to overcome other serious health issues such as asthma or diabetes through sheer willpower and substance use disorders are no different. Addiction is a chronic but treatable disease that requires help from medical professionals to manage.

Myth 2: Detox is the same as rehabilitation.2

Detox is an important early component of recovery, and is incorporated into many rehabilitation programs, but it is not a substitute for comprehensive treatment.

The detox process helps to end the body’s dependence on a substance to facilitate restoration of neurochemical balance. Detox also helps to managing withdrawal symptoms and keep people as safe and comfortable as possible, in order to allow full focus on longer-term recovery efforts. However, the larger issue of addiction entails compulsive behaviors, emotional triggers, environmental concerns, and even genetics, so rehab is highly recommended for individuals struggling with substance use disorders.

Therapy through a rehabilitation program after successfully completing detoxification will help people to better learn about the underlying causes of their addiction, so they can best avoid triggers, manage cravings, and change maladaptive behaviors surrounding continued substance use.

Myth 3: Rehabilitation cures addiction.3

Addiction is a chronic illness; this is no cure, though it can be effectively managed. While detox and rehab can manage withdrawal symptoms in the short-term, the recovery process involves additional treatment for several weeks or months followed by continued therapy and social support that can include meetings, group therapy, and participation in alumni programs.

Cravings for drugs or alcohol can occur spontaneously, and relapse can happen even years after successfully completing a treatment program. None of this should discourage people who struggle with addiction, because addiction can be successfully managed on a long-term basis with diligent, ongoing recovery efforts.

Myth 4: A person should only need to go to a rehabilitation program once.3,4

It is not uncommon for a person to go to rehab multiple times. Drug addiction treatment programs are time-consuming, requiring detox, therapy, support group participation, and more. Because the process can be lengthy, individuals may have to enter and re-enter rehab in order to maintain their personal and professional obligations. For some people going to rehab is simply part of their recovery maintenance. Other individuals may have experienced a relapse and need to reenter treatment to continue their sobriety journey.

Whatever the reason, going through a treatment program several times doesn’t indicate that a person is not making recovery progress. As with other chronic illnesses, ongoing help may be necessary, and that includes periods of feeling better and periods of relapse. People working to manage a substance use disorder or addiction may need to undergo more intense rehabilitation or therapy at different times in their lives. A return to treatment is often a much-needed stepping-stone on the road to full recovery.

Myth 5: Treatments that involve medication are just replacing one addiction with another.2,4,5

Many people entering a treatment program need medications to help them detox safely. For people recovering from opioid addiction, this might include a scheduled tapering of buprenorphine; for people with significant alcohol dependence, this might mean low doses of benzodiazepines to decrease the risk of withdrawal complications such as agitation, seizures, and delirium.

Beyond the period of medical withdrawal management, a combination of medications and behavioral therapies is backed by research to be the most successful addiction treatment approach. Past estimates have indicated that medications are utilized in as many as 80% of all detoxification protocols. With opioid replacement medications for maintenance therapy, medical professionals prescribe these medications, and the individual taking them is closely monitored to mitigate the risk of additional compulsive use with the treatment medications themselves.

Myth 6: A person must hit “rock bottom” before they can go into treatment.6

Waiting too long to seek help for a substance use disorder can be dangerous or even deadly — especially because “rock bottom” is different for everyone. For instance, one person’s rock bottom may be losing relationships with family and loved ones. For others, it may be a DUI or surviving an overdose. It may be more important for a person to seek help as soon as they realize they are struggling with an addiction. This could occur when a person is managing a happy family life and a successful career, when they are experiencing chronic homelessness, or when they suffer mental health issues alongside their substance use problems.

Myth 7: Treatment only works for people who want it.3

While it is important for the person in a treatment program to be engaged with the process, few people enter rehabilitation programs because they want to. In some cases, family and friends stage an intervention, while in other cases, a court or doctor’s order forces the individual into a treatment program. However, people who enter treatment can benefit from the process, regardless of how much they want to be there.

Myth 8: Relapse is failure.4

Relapse might be frustrating or discouraging, both for the person struggling with their addiction, and for their friends and family. However, relapse is quite common, and even likely to occur at some point (or points) during the recovery process.

While rehabilitation programs work to reduce the possibility of relapse, like other chronic illnesses, there are periods where the condition may change or worsen. In some cases, a person will need to re-enter treatment or adjust their treatment plan to get back on track after a relapse. For instance, people in recovery from alcohol addiction might drink a beer and begin to suffer intense cravings for more. They may be unable to control their behavior and become intoxicated further. This does not mean they have failed; instead, it means they need to re-evaluate their recovery plan and, quite possibly, recommit to treatment.

Myth 9: One type of addiction treatment should work for everyone.7

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment and the recovery journey is as unique as the individual. There are some fundamental elements or common approaches to treatment that are applicable to many people and these include:

  • A period of supervised and/or medical detox.
  • Evidence-based therapies that are part of a protocol of therapy for addiction.
  • Frequent interaction with a treatment team of qualified professionals.
  • Relatively long (e.g., at least 3 months for the most improved outcomes) treatment durations.

That said, with so many different types of substance use disorders and so many differences between individuals, it does not make sense for one type of treatment to work for everyone. People entering treatment have different personal histories, different triggers for cravings, and, often, polysubstance use histories or co-occurring mental illnesses, which may require slightly different, integrated approaches to treatment.

Working with a treatment professional to develop a personal treatment plan, which may involve medication to manage withdrawal or mental health issues, incorporate different styles of therapy, or philosophical or religious approaches to treatment, may be the most successful way to promote recovery.

Myth 10: Teenagers are too young to need treatment.8

Preteens, teenagers, and young adults are groups that often experiment with different types of intoxicating substances, and for some of these individuals, the experiment becomes an addiction. Anyone at any age can struggle with addiction to drugs and alcohol, and it is just as important for children and young adults to get help as it is for other age groups.

Treatment for drug addiction involves many factors: withdrawal, medication to manage medical and psychological issues, treatment of co-occurring disorders, individual and group therapy, support groups, and social support from family, friends, mentors, sponsors, and more. Recovery is a lifelong commitment.

Addiction is a chronic illness, so like other chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or asthma, addiction needs consistent management and monitoring. Whether you need treatment for yourself or want to help a family member get into rehab, understanding the myths that create a barrier to treatment means that more people can successfully undergo treatment and achieve lasting recovery.

Drug and Alcohol Rehab Near Dallas, TX

If you are struggling with addiction or know someone who is, there is help available. At our inpatient rehab near Dallas, our team of compassionate, knowledgeable, and experienced addiction treatment specialists have helped countless individuals find meaningful recovery from substance use disorders.

When you’re ready to start the admissions process, contact our caring and helpful admissions navigators at . They can give you more information about our different levels of addiction treatment, tell you what to expect in inpatient treatment, and give you more information about using insurance to pay for rehab.

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