7 Addiction Recovery Myths Debunked
Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care how much money you have in the bank or how many PTA meetings you’ve organized. It could care less if you’re on a fast-track for promotion at work or if your child made the honor roll again. It doesn’t matter what part of town you’re from or how much influence your family name carries. Addiction can happen to anyone – you, your family member, your best friend, or even your child.
Many factors influence a person’s decision not to seek help, including myths and mistaken notions about the treatment process itself. With that in mind, let’s debunk seven common addiction myths that can – and do – prevent people from obtaining the treatment that they desperately need.
Myth #1: You Have to Hit Rock Bottom First
Many people say it’s necessary to hit rock bottom before seeking treatment, implying that you can’t benefit from rehab until reaching an all-time personal low.
While it’s true that some people don’t seek help until they’re in the middle of a crisis, “rock bottom” is not a prerequisite for treatment. Alcohol and drug addiction are progressive. Waiting around to hit rock bottom can result in irreparable bodily injury, incarceration, or even death.
Myth #2: Only Bad People Are Addicted to Drugs and Alcohol
When someone develops an addiction, there’s often a contagious assumption that they’re bad, weak-willed, or immoral. The stigma attached to addiction outweighs other chronic illnesses by leaps and bounds. It’s one of the only diseases where shame, guilt, and mistrust impact access to treatment.
It’s true that substance abuse can drive people to do things they never would have done before. Lying, cheating, and stealing are often committed in the name of feeding an addiction that’s never satisfied. But good people can do bad things, and sick people need treatment.
Myth #3: There’s Only One Way to Get Sober
Despite claims to the contrary, there’s no one-size-fits-all form of drug treatment. 12-Step programs and abstinence might work for some, but others find success in medication assisted treatment (MAT), which combines the use of evidence-based therapies and medication.
Everyone is different. Everyone responds to addiction treatment differently. At the end of the day, the most successful approaches combine a number of treatments and services that are tailored to address your individual needs.
Myth #4: If You Can Handle Your Alcohol, You Don’t Have a Problem
People who are addicted to alcohol often convince themselves they don’t have a problem. They might believe that, if they can “hold their alcohol” without throwing up or missing work the next day, they won’t develop a dependency. However, research shows the exact opposite is true.
A study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research found people who can hold their liquor may experience short-term benefits – like being able to function at work after a night of drinking – but they will likely face long-term problems as their tolerance develops. A high alcohol tolerance doesn’t mean your body is peacefully tolerating the alcohol. The physical damage is still happening.
Myth #5: A Quick Detox is All You Need
The detoxification process is focused on purging your body of toxic substances. But, some people mistakenly believe detox can treat or even “cure” addiction. While it’s certainly an important part of the process, it’s only the first of many steps taken on the road to recovery.
Detox is focused on eliminating toxins from your body and brain, but it doesn’t eliminate the brain disease of addiction. It’s vital to understand the root cause (or causes) of your addiction, identify factors that may have led to it, and recognize red flag moments to prevent continued use or relapse.
Once physical and medical detoxification is complete, other treatments like behavioral therapy and/or medication assisted treatment are recovery tools that can help you regain control of your body, mind, and life.
Myth #6: People Can Only Get Addicted to One Substance
Believe it or not, experts used to believe that people had only one drug of choice and they stuck to abusing that one drug. Today, the abuse of multiple drugs – known as polysubstance abuse – is the norm, not the exception.
Some people abuse multiple substances to create a more intense high, while others combine certain drugs to counteract the negative effects of another drug (using alcohol to come down from cocaine, for example). Due to the compulsive nature of addiction, many people substitute their primary drug of choice with any and all substances made available to them. One example of this would be using prescription opiates and heroin interchangeably.
Myth #7: Prescription Drugs Are Safer Than Illegal Drugs
Despite reaching epidemic proportions over the past decade, addiction to “legal” prescription drugs carries less stigma than addiction to “illegal drugs.” Medications like OxyContin, Xanax and Adderall are prescribed by a doctor and relatively safe when used as directed, causing many people to mistakenly believe they are safer than illicit street drugs.
While there are more controls in the chemical makeup and development of pharmaceutical medications, many prescription drugs are just as powerful as their illegal counterparts. If you take larger doses than directed, more often than intended, or for a condition you do not have, prescription drugs affect the same areas of the brain as illicit drugs – and they pose the same risks of addiction.