8 Common Myths About Addiction Recovery
Last year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released their 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report, which painted a bleak picture of today’s illicit substance use. The report found that the number of people seeking treatment for illicit drug use rose from 9.2 percent in 2016 to 13 percent in 2017. Further, the report found that treatment for opioid-related disorders spiked from 37.5 percent to 54.9 percent in that same time span. It also found that 18 to 25-year-olds exhibited increased use of illicit drugs such as opioids, methamphetamines, cocaine, and LSD, as well as cigarettes and alcohol as opposed to other age groups.
Seeing as these numbers are only expected to rise within the next year, now seems like an opportune time to address the process of addiction recovery. To kick off the discussion, here are 8 common myths about addiction recovery and treatment.
Many people assume that prescription medication is safe just because it was prescribed by their doctor. While many medications are usually safe if taken in accordance with the prescribed dosage, misuse can be extremely dangerous, addictive, and even deadly. Consuming more than the prescribed dose is how many people become addicted in the first place.
People typically assume that natural drugs are safer than synthetics. However, marijuana, psilocybin, and similar substances can still have a profound effect on brain chemistry that can lead to unexpected side effects. Don’t assume something is harmless just because it comes directly from the earth.
“Addiction is primarily psychological and addicts could stop using drugs if they really wanted to” is an all too common mantra that insidiously reinforces the stigmas surrounding drug addiction. In reality, addiction is considered a “primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry” by the American Society of Addiction Medicine. According to them, those suffering from addiction require professional treatment to recalibrate their mental and physical health. Doing so gives them better odds of achieving a successful recovery. Unfortunately, sometimes quitting drugs is not as easy as going cold turkey and leaving the past behind. People respond very differently when it comes to addiction, some are able to quit outright while others require 90-day treatment. Both approaches are equally beneficial so long as the individual in question is able to maintain a stable path towards recovery.
Those who have never experienced addiction often believe that addicts will not alter their behavior until they have experienced a traumatic loss that forces them to rethink their lives. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, promoting the idea that addicts need to hit rock bottom before taking steps to kick their addiction does much more harm than good. This is frequently mythologized in popular entertainment: the caricatured addict has to lose their house, their car, and their family before they finally decide to seek help.
The problem with this type of representation is that people perceive things differently and thus have different breaking points. Some people recognize their addiction very early on, while others don’t act until the situation is already in shambles.
Going to treatment more than once carries a negative social stigma. This is because people misconstrue a relapse as a choice rather than a byproduct of addiction. This myth is typically spun by individuals who have never had to navigate a serious addiction and therefore do not understand the potential pitfalls. Relapses happen, and when they do people should go back into treatment as many times as they need to. Addiction is an intense personal battle and tackling it requires a lot of resolve and dedication. As the song says, if you get knocked down then get up again.
This one goes back to the misconception that addiction is somehow a choice. In reality, substance abuse disorder is a mental disorder where the subject experiences compulsions to self-medicate. Even the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists substance abuse as a legitimate disorder. Where the DSM-IV’s chapter on addictions is titled “Substance-Related Disorders”, the DSM-V’s is titled “Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders”. Further, the new edition breaks substance addiction down into nine distinct categories: alcohol, caffeine, cannabis, hallucinogens, inhalants, opioids, sedatives, stimulants, and tobacco.
Relapses are the reason many treatment programs have aftercare recovery groups. Sometimes people have to reenter treatment due to the very nature of the disease they are attempting to manage. Every day is a new battle with renewed potential for success and mistakes. The important thing is to maintain one’s willpower and strive to maintain sobriety.
People who assume the whole point of treatment is to cure addiction are woefully incorrect. For some addicts, addiction is a lifelong disease—hence the term “in recovery.” In fact, the claim that addiction has no cure is widely agreed upon by experts in a variety of medical and scientific fields. Treatment can certainly be the first step on a path towards a more fulfilling life, but subjects should realize the purpose therein is to learn how to abstain from substance abuse and pursue sobriety. Think of drug and alcohol treatment as akin to mental health therapy: people seek treatment in order to learn how to safely and effectively manage their condition, there is no cure per se.
The logic goes something like this: people relapse because treatment itself is flawed. This myth is particularly egregious because it suggests that relapsing is essentially the same as failure, which it is not. As paradoxical as it may seem, a relapse can function in a positive manner—that is, as a signifier for additional treatment methods that need to be applied. When someone relapses and reenters rehab, some of the first questions they are asked concerning any actions that could have been taken on part of both the patient and the treatment center to prevent the conditions that led to the relapse. These questions provide a fruitful path to tackle the problem from a more experienced direction.
When it comes to addiction, as with mental health, it is important to remember that everyone is different and therefore require different approaches. Essentially, treatment can be a process of trial and error. Fortunately, there are plenty of specialty treatment centers out there that give patients plenty of options when it comes to finding a treatment program tailored to their condition.
At Restore Health and Wellness Center, our goal is to help people who have been affected by alcohol and drug addiction. We believe that all things are possible when humans reach out to one another and strive for excellence rather than retreating to isolation and despair. This is reflected in our belief that people themselves are the antidote for addiction. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug and/or alcohol addiction, please contact us to speak with an addiction specialist who can help you get started on the path to sobriety.