As the opioid crisis in the US has continued to get worse in recent years, there has been a lot of media coverage of the causes of addiction. Many people have also been personally affected by the opioid crisis. Therefore, many people have had to reconsider what they thought they knew about addiction. Although there has been a considerable change in public awareness of addiction in recent years, many myths and misconceptions still persist. These myths can contribute to the stigma people with substance use disorders feel and they can actually prevent people from getting the treatment they need. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, of people who didn’t seek treatment for a substance use disorder even though they felt they needed it, 13.5 percent were afraid of what their friends and neighbors might think and another 11.9 percent were afraid of the effect it might have on their jobs. [https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DR-FFR2-2016/NSDUH-DR-FFR2-2016.htm] That’s why it’s important to correct misconceptions about addiction and treatment, such as the following.
“Addiction is mainly a result of poor self-control.”
One of the most common myths about addiction is that it mainly affects people who lack self-control. A 2018 poll by AP-NORC found that although a slight majority of Americans, 53 percent, now see addiction as a disease, 44 percent see it as a lack of willpower or discipline and 33 percent see it as a character flaw. [http://www.apnorc.org/news-media/Pages/AP-NORC-Poll-Most-Americans-see-drug-addiction-as-a-disease.aspx] However, addiction has very little to do with discipline, willpower, or character. About half of your addiction risk is genetic, meaning the single biggest factor in whether you develop a substance use disorder is whether you have a parent or a sibling with a substance use disorder. [https://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/addiction/genes/] Another major factor is whether you have a mental health issue, such as major depression, an anxiety disorder, ADHD, PTSD, a personality disorder, or a psychotic disorder. These are influenced by genetic factors and by childhood environment, neither of which you have any control over.
“You can’t recover until you hit rock bottom.”
This is perhaps the most dangerous misconception about addiction and recovery because it makes people delay asking for help. It also makes friends and family less likely to encourage someone they care about to seek help for addiction. The rock-bottom myth assumes that no one will seek help until life with addiction becomes as bad as it can possibly get. There are two major problems with this idea. First, there’s no objective limit to how bad life can get. Some people decide to get help after relatively mild problems while others may resist seeking help even in the face of severe consequences. Some people never hit rock bottom at all or if they do, it doesn’t make them stay sober. In 2017, more than 70,000 people died of drug overdoses and more than 88,000 people died of alcohol-related causes. [https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates] Second, most people who enter treatment aren’t entirely sure they should be there. For most people, there’s no single turning point when they decide they want to quit drugs and alcohol for good. They may give in to their family’s appeals or they may enter treatment as part of a drug court deal. A good treatment program can help clients find their own motivation for getting sober and build on that motivation during treatment.
“There is one correct way to recover from addiction.”
Some people feel there is only one way to recover from addiction. Typically, when people feel this way, it’s because they or someone they know succeeded using that method. Often, that method is a 12-Step program, such as AA or NA, and a vocal minority of 12-steppers insist it’s the only way to go. Twelve-step programs have helped a lot of people get sober and they are the basis for many treatment programs, but they aren’t the only path to recovery. Everyone has a different personal history and different addiction history. There is no one-size-fits-all in addiction recovery. Often, recovery involves a lot of trial and error and it’s better not to be too constrained by what’s supposed to work but rather treat the individual.
“Addiction is a choice.”
Substance use is a choice but addiction is not. As noted above, addiction is mainly a matter of genes, mental health issues, and environmental factors, none of which anyone chooses. People typically do choose whether or not to use drugs or alcohol but relatively few people who use drugs or alcohol become addicted. For example, more than 86 percent of American adults say they’ve drunk alcohol at some point in their lives and nearly 27 percent even say they’ve engaged in binge drinking within the past month. Despite that, only about six percent of adults have an alcohol use disorder. [https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics] Choosing to drink is not the same as choosing addiction. No one who has seen how addiction affects people’s lives would believe anyone would choose it.
“Treatment is only for rich people.”
It’s not uncommon to see in the news that some celebrity has entered treatment for addiction. It’s easy to get the impression, then, that addiction treatment is mainly for rich people. That’s not true at all. There are many levels of addiction treatment. Often, more moderately priced programs are more effective because they focus more on providing treatment than a luxury. All you really need for successful treatment is a clean, comfortable environment. What’s more, treatment is more accessible now than it has ever been. Most insurers now cover addiction treatment and most quality treatment programs accept several forms of insurance. The recent SUPPORT Act also expands the number of programs covered by Medicaid and Medicare. Treatment programs will work with you to help you pay for treatment, so don’t assume you can’t afford it.
At Fort Behavioral Health, we offer a safe, nurturing, and healing space for men and women to find recovery from the multifaceted disease of addiction. Our team believes in inspiring each client to face their challenges, discover the root of their problems, and reclaim their lives. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, call us today at 817-381-9741 or contact us through our admissions page.