6 Common Misconceptions About Addiction Recovery

With the opioid crisis getting worse every year, there has been increasing media coverage of addiction and treatment. The treatment landscape has also changed a lot, with ever increasing modalities, centers, and more government programs at every level designed to help people recover from addiction. There’s also new research. For decades, we actually knew very little about addiction, but that’s finally changing. Although this is an exciting time for new developments in addiction treatment, many people still have outdated beliefs that might prevent them or a loved one from getting help. The following are some common misconceptions about addiction treatment and recovery.

“You have to hit rock bottom.”

The idea that you have to hit a certain “rock bottom” before you can recover from addiction is one of the most dangerous myths. In 2017, more than 70,000 Americans died of drug overdoses and each year, about 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes. For some, “rock bottom” could be an arrest, the loss of a job, significant other, or organ failure and other physical ailments caused by substance abuse. The belief that someone has to hit a generalized concept of “rock bottom” is misleading and dangerous, as it is truly subjective. Addiction is a progressive disease, and the longer you live with it, the harder it is to escape.

The real truth is that most people enter treatment before they’re completely ready. It’s true that some people have some experience that makes them suddenly realize they can’t go on living with addiction. However, there are many others who are persuaded by loved  ones to enter treatment or are ordered into treatment by drug courts. Studies on the effectiveness of drug courts, for example, have found participants are more likely to complete treatment–because the alternative is jail–have lower recidivism rates, and lower relapse rates than offenders who didn’t enter treatment. What’s more, drug court graduates tend to do even better over longer periods.

Drug court participants often enter treatment against their will, but most other people seeking help for substance use disorders are merely ambivalent. This is perfectly normal, and their commitment to recovery typically increases the longer they’re in treatment. You don’t need to hit rock bottom to recover from addiction; you only need a desire for life to be better.

“You can detox on your own.”

The internet is full of advice on DIY detox. If your substance use is relatively light and you’re young and healthy, it might be possible to detox on your own, although it’s always best to consult with your doctor first. However, if you have a substance use disorder, especially if you are physically dependent on alcohol, opioids, or benzodiazepines, detoxing in a facility is a better option. Detoxing from a serious addiction can be painful and even dangerous. Many people who try to detox alone end up giving up halfway through because they can’t tolerate the symptoms. Delirium Tremens, the most severe form of alcohol detox, can come on suddenly and be fatal. Quitting benzodiazepines can cause seizures or psychosis. Opioid detox can put tremendous stress on your body. Detox can aggravate pre-existing medical conditions, making it more dangerous than it would otherwise be.

Detoxing in a medical facility provides a much higher level of safety and comfort. Medical staff can help you avoid common dangers such as malnutrition and dehydration and intervene if serious withdrawal symptoms develop. Detoxing in a facility also increases the likelihood that you will actually finishing detoxing, rather than give up when the withdrawal symptoms get too bad.

“You have to be religious to work the steps.”

Alcoholics Anonymous has been around for 80 years now and many of the 12-step principles have seeped into popular culture. One of the best known 12-step principles is reliance on a higher power. Many people who are only superficially familiar with the 12-steps assume this means you have to become religious in order to recover from addiction using the 12-steps, however, there is quite a bit of flexibility how one defines “higher power.” The text of AA refers to “God as you understand him” due to the time period in which it was penned, however, the spiritual aspects of the 12-steps are mainly concerned with finding a sense of connection and purpose. What’s more, there are an abundance of 12-step meetings to choose from- Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, you name it. Many are very open about spirituality and don’t require you to adopt any religious views.

“Treatment is for rich people.”

There certainly are exclusive high-end treatment centers for rich people, but the idea that treatment is only for rich people mainly comes from media coverage of celebrities entering treatment. In reality, there are a huge range of treatment options. What’s more, in response to the opioid crisis, these options are becoming much more affordable. Most insurers are now willing to cover at least part of inpatient treatment and now government programs like Medicare and Medicaid can cover more treatment options. Treatment centers have staff whose job it is to help you figure out how to afford treatment, so don’t assume you can’t afford it.

“Relapse means you’ve failed.”

Relapse is unfortunately common. Between 40 and 60 percent of people will relapse within a year after treatment. However, relapse is not the end of the story. People can and do enjoy a long recovery after several failed attempts. Often, the trouble is they just didn’t use the right approach to treatment or they didn’t have sufficient support following treatment. They often require a longer stay in treatment to break out of old patterns and establish healthier habits and life skills before transitioning back to normal life.

Burning Tree provides programs specializing in long-term residential treatment for clients with a history of drug and alcohol relapse. Our long-term approach and extensive aftercare programs help clients break the cycle of relapse and transition to healthier, more fulfilling lives. Contact us for more information or visit the websites of our three locations: Renewal Lodge, which offers a 30-60 day treatment program, Burning Tree Ranch, which offers year-long treatment.


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