MYTH: An addict must want alcohol and drug treatment for it to work.
Alcohol and drug treatment is hard work, and even most people who enter treatment voluntarily don’t really want to be there. Some addicts seek treatment for themselves, but many others enter programs in response to concerned family members and friends, under pressure from an employer, or because of a court order. Interestingly, people who enter alcohol and drug treatment because of outside influences may actually do better than those who “want” treatment and seek it on their own. Several studies have found that addicts who face “high pressure” to do well in a treatment program tend to actually do better.
Similarly, alcohol and drug treatment doesn’t have to be voluntary to be successful. Examination of data from people who entered treatment as a result of a court order shows that they are often as successful or more successful than those who voluntarily enter treatment.
MYTH: All alcohol and drug treatment centers are the same.
Drug addicts tend to share a number of similar qualities, but they are clearly not all the same. This is also true of alcohol and drug treatment centers – there are many standard therapies and approaches that you’re likely to find at the majority treatment centers, but no program is exactly the same. For example, holistic treatment centers tend to offer complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, which you won’t find at more traditional centers. Christian treatment centers emphasize the power of religion, while dual-diagnosis centers focus on treating both addiction and other psychological disorders. Choosing a center whose approach to addiction treatment best matches your needs can make all the difference in how successful your recovery is.
MYTH: If treatment doesn’t work the first time, it will never work.
Unfortunately, relapse is very common among addicts. Many people find the weeks after leaving an alcohol and drug treatment center to be particularly difficult, and the risk of relapse during this time is high. Returning to the people and environment that the addict associates with drug use will almost always bring up an urge to use again. Drug addiction is a chronic problem that will never go away completely, and an occasional relapse does not mean that all hope is lost. Many people make several treatment attempts before they achieve long-term sobriety. While the recovery process may be longer for some addicts, each treatment attempt is a step forward in the journey.
MYTH: An addict isn’t ready for treatment until he or she has hit “rock bottom”.
This concept was popularized by the Johnson Model of Intervention, which is based on the assumption that an addict is unable to see reality until they are forced to seek help because of a buildup of life crises – “hitting bottom”. This confrontational method of intervention, in which family members present the addict with the negative consequences of their addiction, aims to convince an addict to seek treatment before they hit rock bottom on their own.
There are many different intervention methods, both formal and informal, and they can provide an addict with the motivation they need to enter alcohol and drug treatment before hitting rock bottom. In fact, the earlier an individual seeks treatment for an addiction problem, the more successful they’re likely to be. It isn’t necessary to wait for the situation to become desperate before taking action.
MYTH: Alcohol and drug treatment will cure addiction.
Addiction is most accurately thought of as a chronic disorder. Completing a treatment program will not cure addiction, just like taking insulin will not cure diabetes. Although many people are able to stay sober for the long haul, it doesn’t mean that they don’t continue to struggle with the urge to use drugs or alcohol. Even people who have quit successfully may find it necessary to return to an alcohol and drug treatment program in the future. There is no cure, but with treatment you can learn to manage your addiction.
MYTH: If I work hard, I can complete treatment faster.
Recovery is a long-term process, and the best treatment programs recognize this. Research has shown that a rehab stay of 90 days or more is optimal for effective treatment, and a comprehensive after-care program can dramatically increase an addict’s ability to stay sober. Length of treatment is the best predictor of success, with people who stay in treatment for at least a year more than twice as likely to stay off drugs. Moving through all the steps of a treatment program as fast as you can will not lead to better or faster results.
MYTH: Alcohol and drug addiction are signs of weakness.
Scientific research has produced overwhelming evidence that addiction is a brain disease, not a matter of willpower or morality. While it’s true that choosing to try a drug or drink alcohol begins as a voluntary decision, the use of addictive substances eventually causes changes brain function and even brain structure. What began as a voluntary decision becomes a compulsion driven by an addicted brain – something the addict has no control over. This is not a result of personal weakness, but rather the result of altered brain function. Drug use begins as a personal choice, but drug addiction is not a choice at all.
MYTH: People don’t need treatment to stop using drugs or alcohol.
There will always be some people who claim they have kicked an addiction without the help of any kind of treatment, but it is an unusual and extremely difficult thing to do. Long-term use of drugs or alcohol changes the way an individual’s brain functions, which makes it increasingly harder for an addict to quit without help. Alcohol and drug treatment provides the outside support and intervention that the vast majority of drug addicts need in order to quit using and achieve long-term sobriety. For a problem as serious as substance abuse, which has very real physical and mental consequences, it just makes sense to take advantage of professional treatment options.
MYTH: Alcohol and drug treatment doesn’t really make a difference.
Scientists and academics have conducted numerous studies on alcohol and drug treatment over the years, and the results overwhelmingly show that treatment makes a difference for many people. For example, treatment programs have been shown to reduce drug use by as much as 60 percent, decrease criminal activity, reduce the risk of HIV infection and increase a person’s employment prospects.
MYTH: There is one “best” alcohol and drug treatment program.
The best approach to treating addiction depends on a wide range of factors that are different for every addict. A program that works for a cocaine addict may not be a good fit for a alcoholic; a program that helps a middle-aged woman might not help a teenage boy. The best alcohol and drug treatment program is the one that works for you.