Debunking Myths That Might Hinder Someone In Recovery
Although addiction and substance abuse are widespread, there are still many myths that dominate our cultural understandings of them. Some myths are related to stigma while others are simply incorrect facts.
Often times, myths about drug and alcohol abuse come from the ways that movies, TV shows, and music depict them. But such depictions can be ill-informed and cause more damage than good for their viewers.
Ultimately, the knowledge and education surrounding addiction can make the difference in a person’s decisions—and even sometimes between life and death.
Myth #1: Addicts and Users Are Intrinsically Bad
The myth that those suffering from addiction and substance abuse are bad people often comes from cultural stereotypes. For example, major news stations often portray addicts as intrinsically flawed criminals roaming the streets, willing to do anything to get another hit.
But when you come back to the real world, the people struggling with addiction are normal people. They may even be people you know. What leads a person to both substance abuse and addiction is made up of a complex combination of factors. These might include genetic predisposition, co-occurring disorders, chronic physical health conditions, and experiences of trauma. But there is not something intrinsically “bad” about the person.
Myth #2: You Don’t Need Rehab if You’ve Done a Detox
Detox is one step in the process of recovery. It is often one of the first ones—which makes it quite important—but it is not sustainable unless combined with other treatments over time. Detox helps purge harmful substances from your body and should be professionally monitored, especially when it comes to handling severe withdrawal symptoms.
According to a 2018 study of detoxification treatments in the United States, “drug detoxification can only help manage acute withdrawals.” When it comes to long-term abstinence and maintaining sobriety, other treatments are essential for a person’s success. Moreover, the research showed that a person who received detox-only treatment has an increased risk of further overdoses and emergency readmissions into detox programs.
In sum, recovery is not a one-stop-shop and requires lifelong commitment to care, well-being, and addressing underlying conditions.
Myth #3: Prescription Drugs Aren’t Dangerous Because a Doctor Gave Them to You
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 80% of adults take one prescription medication per day and over 50% are taking five or more prescriptions daily. These high numbers make it extremely likely, if not inevitable, for the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs.
Although a number of prescription drugs are known to be highly addictive and have negative side effects, the pain-relieving benefits of the drugs outweigh its negative risks. Although prescribed by doctors according to specific dosing instructions, the possibility of mismanagement is high, especially for a person in chronic or acute physical pain.
Opioid-related prescription drugs are some of the most commonly misused and abused. If not taken with great care, a person can become quickly dependent—or addicted—to a prescribed opiate. Some examples include:
Any prescribed drug should be taken with care and caution, especially if you have a personal or genetic history of substance addiction. If they can be avoided, one of the best ways to avoid substance misuse is to steer clear of prescription medications that may be potentially addictive. In all cases, it is best to express your concerns and consult with a medical professional familiar with your history.
Myth #4: Alcohol Addiction is Fine Because Alcohol is Legal
Despite the well-documented dangers of alcohol misuse and abuse, the fact that alcohol is legal and is the socially acceptable in most contexts makes it particularly dangerous. With cutting-edge research being done on the brain and how alcohol affects brain activity, it makes it a perfect time to readdress the myth of the harmlessness of alcohol addiction.
A 2020 study on trends in alcohol-induced deaths found a significant increase in the recent years in the United States. Widespread increases were observed across both male and female groups, as well as certain ethnicities including American Indians and Alaskan Natives. As a broader health issue affecting society at large, alcohol abuse and addiction should be taken seriously.
And while it is true that some many people consume alcohol without misuse, abuse, or addiction, it does not change the fact that alcohol is fundamentally addictive and has an effect on brain chemistry.
Myth #5: Recovered Addicts Can Never Become Valuable Members of Society
There are many well-known recovered addicts but perhaps the most well-known is Bill Wilson who founded Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in 1935 against all odds. As an example for support programs for those in recovery, AA and its 12-Step program revolutionized how people thought about and approached substance abuse and addiction.
The myth that addicts will never become valuable members of society is in line with the first myth: the myth that there is something intrinsically wrong with someone who struggles with addiction. These two misconceptions are not just myths but can be harmful and even detrimental systems of thought to those on the path to recovery—and even to those who wish to begin their journey to healing.
In order to cultivate a long-lasting sobriety and reenter society at a meaningful level, recovery requires more than just detox or even a month in rehab. Treatments such as behavioral therapy can help a person change their habits, but it can also address underlying mental or emotional disorders such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorders. Innovative treatment options take a holistic approach to treatment for substance abuse patterns and addiction, and should address the totality of a person’s life.
Recovery is possible for everyone. Therefore, it is important to address the myths that might misinform or even mislead those wanting to learn more about how to get help.