We’ve come a long way in our understanding of addiction and addiction treatment and we’re still learning more all the time. Unfortunately, many myths and misconceptions still persist. These can create all kinds of problems for people struggling with addiction and the families of those people. These myths may lead people to take unnecessary risks or prevent them from seeking treatment. They may may make even well intentioned friends and family members behave in ways that make recovery harder. Here are some of the persistent myths around drug addiction and recovery.
Addiction is a choice.
One especially pernicious myth about addiction is that people choose it. People choose to drink or use drugs, but no one chooses to become addicted. Of course, you can’t become addicted if you never try using a substance, but the vast majority of people why drugs or alcohol never develop a serious substance use issue. It’s hard to know ahead of time whether you’ll develop an addiction. More to the point, becoming addicted is about far more than the substance itself. About half of addiction risk has to do with various genetic factors. Dozens of genes related to addiction have been identified. Some of these affect how efficiently you metabolize substances, such as alcohol or nicotine, while others control how much pleasure you get from various substances, including alcohol or cocaine. Having a parent who struggles with addiction also makes you more likely to learn that addictive behavior is normal, further increasing your risk. Beyond that, most people with addictions also have co-occurring disorders, such as depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and others. For these people, substance use is a symptom of a different problem.
If you have a job, a family, a place to live and so on, you’re not addicted.
Many people carry in their minds an image of what at addict looks like–perhaps unemployed, disheveled, lonely, broke, or even homeless. In reality, anyone can struggle with addiction. People with substance use issues are often very good at hiding it, especially if that substance happens to be alcohol, which is everywhere. Addiction is especially common in high-stress professions such as law and medicine. Lawyers, in particular, have a very high rate of depression, addiction, and suicide. Many people with substance use issues can function for a long time before their addictions seriously damage their personal and professional lives, but it is inevitable that it will eventually happen.
A relapse means you’ve failed.
Relapse rates are pretty high on average. Some studies have found that the relapse rate for people trying to quit drinking is about 90 percent. That is, anyone who tries to quit drinking has a 90 percent chance of relapsing at least once, and will probably relapse several times. This is terribly frustrating, for both the person who wants to quit and for that person’s family, but a relapse isn’t a failure. People can and do quit after several tries. The important thing is to learn from your mistakes and change your plan for next time. Another, related, misconception is that when you relapse, you have to start over from scratch. It’s true that getting back on track is harder in some ways. Some people have worse withdrawal when detoxing after relapse and it’s normal to feel a bit discouraged. However, you’ve also done a lot of work already. You have a better understanding of what caused your addiction and you probably have more resources to make another try. It’s still a tough road but it’s one you’ve traveled before.
You have to find religion to get sober.
Many people who get sober do so with the help of 12-step programs like AA. Most people aware that a central tenet of AA is reliance on a higher power. Some members take this very seriously and insist that a spiritual awakening and religious devotion is necessary to maintain sobriety. While that’s fine for some people, others are put off by it or just can’t seem to do it. The good news is that you don’t have to become religious to stay sober. The most important things are to get any co-occurring disorders under control and form a strong sober support network. There are several non-religious mutual-aid groups that you can join, including SMART Recovery, Refuge Recovery, and LifeRing. There are even agnostic and atheist 12-step meetings.
You have to hit bottom before you can recover.
There’s a saying in AA that you hit bottom whenever you decide to stop digging. The notion that you have to completely destroy your life before you can begin recovery is dangerous. Recovery doesn’t get easier by letting the problem get worse. The earlier you take action to overcome addiction, the better off you’ll be.
Medication assisted treatment is replacing one addiction with another.
Some people believe that taking medication as part of recovery means you’re not really in recovery. This isn’t just a talking point among politicians who don’t want to fund methadone clinics; it’s also a common belief in 12-step circles. If you would rather not take medication, that is certainly your choice, but it has helped many people take their lives back from addiction. Methadone and Suboxone drastically reduce the rate of opioid relapse and disulfiram and naltrexone have helped many people quit drinking. No one would advise a diabetic to stop taking insulin and the same logic should apply to addiction.
You have to be rich to afford treatment.
Residential treatment is often depicted as a kind of spa for rich people with substance use issues. Those places do exist, but there are many different options available to people who want to get sober. Not only are there different price levels for inpatient treatment, but there is also a whole continuum of care that includes counseling, intensive outpatient treatment, and extended residential treatment. Insurance will often pay for most of treatment, and if not, there may be government assistance available for people who want to get sober. Treatment centers will help you find a way to pay for treatment.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.