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Unpacking 8 Common Myths About Addiction

by Rachel Gaddis

January 21, 2022
myths about addiction

Widespread myths about addiction are partially responsible for creating a gap between those who need treatment and those who actually seek treatment. According to Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 21 million people in the U.S. need treatment for alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder but only 3.7 million sought out rehab services.

What misinformation keeps people from engaging with rehab services, and ultimately from recovering from active addictions?

8 Widespread Addiction Myths Debunked

  1. It is essential to hit rock bottom before you get better.
  2. All addiction treatment is expensive.
  3. You are just substituting one addiction for another with medication-assisted treatment.
  4. You can’t hold down a job if you are addicted to alcohol or drugs.
  5. If you relapse, it means treatment has failed you.
  6. Alcohol use disorder is not as bad as substance use disorder.
  7. If you have an addiction, you simply lack the willpower to stop.
  8. Addiction is a choice.

1) It is essential to hit rock bottom before you get better.

Perhaps the most enduring of all addiction-related myths is the notion that someone needs to completely collapse before pursuing treatment. This belief is flawed.

Unfortunately, the persistence of this myth has led to many people watching their loved ones become deeper entrenched in addiction without intervening. It also has led many with addictions to continue abusing substances with  the belief they still have a ways to go before they should commit to rehab.

The cumulative findings of addiction research proves the opposite. The earlier you seek treatment for addiction, the better your chances on the road to recovery.

2) All addiction treatment is expensive.

Rehab has a reputation for being unreasonably expensive, and this myth is bolstered by our repeated exposure to high-profile celebrity rehab visits at upscale treatment centers. But that does not mean all addiction treatment is expensive.

If you qualify for Medicaid, there are treatment centers you can attend. And since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, insurance providers are compelled to offer coverage for the treatment of both substance use disorders and mental health conditions. This has widened access to treatment for those unable to finance it.

3) You are just substituting one addiction for another with medication-assisted treatment.

FDA-approved medications can be used to treat opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder. Some people feel this merely swaps out one addiction for another.

While MAT (medication-assisted treatment) does involve replacing one substance with another, you are removing a harmful, addictive substance in favor of one that is safe to use and FDA-approved. Properly applied, MAT can ease withdrawal symptoms and minimize cravings, significantly reduce the risk of overdose, and lay the groundwork for lifelong recovery.

4) You cannot hold down a job if you are addicted to alcohol or drugs.

Despite the stigma that an addict takes a certain form, such as a homeless person, it is just as likely that an addict could be an executive with a chronic marijuana habit, a student abusing prescription painkillers, or a teacher who is a high-functioning alcoholic.

Outward appearances can be deceptive, and addiction does not discriminate. Many people function in daily life and hold down a regular job despite being addicted to alcohol or drugs.

5) If you relapse, it means treatment has failed you.

It is tough to get accurate data concerning relapse. That said, most estimates suggest that somewhere between 40% and 60% of those pursuing addiction treatment relapse at some point.

The good news: Recovering after relapse is possible! Indeed, recovery should be viewed as a process rather than an event. That process might not be flawlessly smooth, so do not make the mistake of assuming relapse means treatment has failed you. Strive for progress, not perfection!

6) Alcohol use disorder is not as bad as substance use disorder.

Alcohol is more socially acceptable and readily accessible than perhaps illicit drugs, which makes drinking alcohol daily and heavy drinking commonplace. Whatever its legal status, alcohol is a dangerous drug when abused.

But here are the facts: Alcohol is the third-leading cause of preventable death in the United States, with a laundry list of negative outcomes. Someone with severe alcohol use disorder is facing a problem equally grave as someone addicted to meth, cocaine, or heroin.

7) If you have an addiction, you simply lack the willpower to stop.

For generations, addiction has been widely regarded as a moral failing or a lack of willpower in addressing the problem. This is simply not true.

Thankfully, years of research now more accurately proves addiction is a disease. The bad news is that addiction is a progressive and relapsing disease. The good news is that it is treatable and not a question of willpower.

8) Addiction is a choice.

Many people choose to start using alcohol or drugs. But nobody chooses to become an addict.

The continued use of substances brings about structural and chemical changes to the brain, which trigger compulsive and uncontrollable use. Addiction is not a choice; addiction is a chronic disease.

Do You Need Treatment? Don’t Wait!

If you are struggling with alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder, we can help you get your life back at Landmark Recovery. Whether you need residential rehab for a severe addiction, outpatient treatment for a mild alcohol use disorder, or a partial hospitalization program for the misuse of prescription painkillers, we will tailor your treatment program accordingly.

To get started, reach out to our recovery specialists 24/7 at 888-448-0302 and find a treatment center near you.

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