Myths About Substance Abuse
They Need To Decide They Want Help, and Other
The topic of addiction and recovery has been often clouded by misconceptions in the general public. Addiction has been stigmatized for nearly all of American history, and although public perception is changing, certain ideas about addiction and addiction treatment persist. Let’s take a look at the top 5.
Myth 1: A person with an addiction must choose to get help, otherwise it won’t help: This myth holds that for treatment to be effective, it must be an addict’s choice to get well. However, studies show that substance abusers who are coerced into treatment (by family, job, school, etc.) or who are ordered to treatment by the court have similar treatment success rates. More important than a willingness to go in the first place is the internalization of a desire to change over the course of treatment.
Myth 2: If a person relapses after treatment, it was a waste of time and money: Treatment is never wasted, even if a person with a substance use disorder returns to use. Studies show the results of treatment can be cumulative, planting the seed of change, eventually leading to lasting change. Don’t give up hope if your loved one does not maintain recovery after the first treatment experience.
Myth 3: It’s their problem, not mine: Families and other loved ones often think that the individual with a substance use disorder is the only one who needs treatment. This is simply not the case. Addiction is a family disease, it affects all loved ones of the afflicted individual. Families should seek help whether or not their addicted relative gets help for themselves. Therapy and mutual support groups like Al-Anon are great options. In addition, those with substance use disorders who’s family’s participated in the treatment process are much more likely to be successful.
Myth 4: They could change if they wanted to: Even though the medical community has considered addiction a disease for decades, the idea that addiction is a choice still persists in the minds of the general public. Sometimes that is because a person who does not suffer from the illness can make the choice to reduce or stop substance use when it becomes or has the potential to become harmful (i.e. “When I have an important engagement, I can choose not to drink the evening before, why can’t he.” Or “If she truly loved her children, she would quit.”) It’s important to become educated on the disease model of addiction, and to realize that a person with this disease has an abnormal reaction (both physically and mentally) to the use of substances.
Myth 5: Detox is enough: Many people (including some substance abusers themselves) think that if they can treat the physical chemical dependence by detoxing, they will have solved the problem. However, drug an alcohol use are only a symptom of a deeper issue. Addiction has a physical component, but it also has mental and spiritual components, so that detox alone is not enough. If the underlying issues are not treated, it is very likely a person will return to substance use after detox.