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7 Common Misconceptions About Addiction Treatment and Recovery

7 Common Misconceptions About Addiction Treatment and Recovery

Watching a loved one struggle with a substance use disorder is painful and confusing. People who have never struggled with addiction typically have a very hard time understanding the behavior of people who do. It’s hard to understand why someone doesn’t just ask for help. It doesn’t help that there are a lot of misconceptions around addiction treatment and recovery. Some of them are perpetuated by TV and movies while others are spread like a game of telephone. Many of these misconceptions are barriers to people seeking help when they know they need it and sometimes they are merely convenient excuses for people who are afraid to change. Here are some common misconceptions about substance use treatment and recovery.

“You have to hit rock bottom before you can quit.”

This is a persistent myth about addiction. It’s not hard to understand why it persists: It essentially absolves someone with a substance use disorder–and that person’s family–from trying very hard to get sober. Unfortunately, death too often comes before rock bottom. According to the CDC, more than 70,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2017. In addition to that, about 88,000 people die of alcohol-related causes each year. For those people, either rock bottom never came or it wasn’t enough to keep them sober. 

More often, people seek help at the urging of their families, sometimes following an intervention. It’s also common for people to get help as a result of a drug court sentence. People can do very well in treatment and recovery if they have the right incentives, no rock bottom required.

“Knowing you have a problem is enough motivation to quit.”

One of the most baffling things for family members of people with addiction is that it can sometimes be blindingly obvious to anyone that their loved one’s substance use is ruining their lives and yet they don’t seek help. The normal calculus would be, “This thing is hurting me, so I’m going to stop doing it.” What we can’t see is the other side of the equation. Most people with substance use issues keep using for a reason. Often, they use drugs or alcohol to cope with the symptoms of a mental health issue or trauma. They are aware their substance use is harmful but it feels like the only way to cope. They need to understand that there’s a better way.

“All you really need is detox.”

Some people think all you really need from treatment is detox. It’s true that detox is a major hurdle for many people. It’s often miserable, as with opioid withdrawal, and sometimes dangerous, as with severe alcohol withdrawal. For people who have had a difficult detox experience in the past, older people, and people with medical issues such as heart disease or pregnancy, medical detox is a good idea. However, it only gets you over the first hurdle. Many challenges remain in recovery. If you don’t have a plan, you’re likely to be detoxing again before you know it.

“Going through treatment means you’re cured.”

It would be nice if you could go through a 30 or 90-day treatment program and never have to worry about substance use again but it doesn’t work that way. Addiction is a chronic condition, which in some cases, even changes the structure of your brain. It’s something you’ll probably have to manage for the rest of your life. It does get easier though. People typically say that their cravings drop significantly after one year and again after five years. 

“Relapse means you’ve failed.”

Relapse is extremely discouraging for everyone involved and it’s dangerous for the person who does since their tolerance isn’t what it used to be. However, relapse is also extremely common. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that between 40 and 60 percent of people who go through treatment relapse within the first year. While relapse should be avoided if possible, it’s not a permanent failure. Many people do stay sober long term after several relapses. 

“I can’t afford treatment.”

Treatment, especially residential treatment, is often thought of as a luxury for the rich and famous and most people assume they can’t afford it. In reality, some level of treatment is available to nearly everyone. The continuum of care ranges from outpatient services to extended residential stays and the cost is different depending on the program you choose. There are also many more payment options now than there have ever been. More federal money is available for treatment and most insurance plans cover at least part of the cost of an addiction treatment program. Treatment centers have people who specialize in helping clients find ways to afford treatment, so shop around before you assume you can’t afford help for yourself or your loved one.

“I don’t have time for treatment.”

When you think of entering addiction treatment, you may imagine a scenario where you drop everything for 30 to 90 days so you can live in some far-away facility. In reality, that’s just one treatment option among many. If it’s just not possible for you to take the time off, perhaps because of work, school, or family obligations, there are outpatient options, such as intensive outpatient programs that provide a high level of care while allowing you to live at home and meet your other responsibilities. 

Making the decision to ask for help and enter treatment is scary. It’s a big change and failure is always a possibility. However, the misconceptions around treatment and recovery make it harder than it needs to be. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use, Steps Recovery Centers can help. We offer a variety of outpatient and inpatient treatment options for your unique situation. To learn more about our programs, call us today at 385-236-0931 or explore our website.