Addiction was ruled a disease by the American Medical Association (AMA) in 1976. In 2012, an estimated 23.1 million Americans (8.9%) required treatment for problems related to drug or alcohol addiction.
Unfortunately, according to the National Institutes of Health, only an estimated 2.5 million people (1%) actually received treatment at a specialty facility. Why did so few attempt treatment? One reason may be the negative myths about alcohol and drug addiction and addiction recovery that pervade our society. False views of addiction and addiction treatment don’t do anyone any good. In fact, these myths can actually prevent an addict from seeking help and entering treatment programs.
If you are considering treatment but are hesitant, here are five ideas that you can confidently put in the "myth" drawer in order to clear up any false concerns you may have before getting help.
1. Myth: Believing "I can do it myself.”
An excuse commonly used by addicts to avoid entering an addiction treatment program is “I can get sober on my own!” Really? Don’t deceive yourself. When you are on your own, it's all too easy to get discouraged and rationalize taking "just one more pill” or “just one last drink.”
Studies clearly demonstrate that addicts in recovery have a significantly higher rate of success when they have a powerful support team around them. Participation in group therapy and other peer support programs during and following treatment can help you achieve success and prevent relapses.
Hiding and denying an addiction is detrimental to changing destructive behaviors. Opening up and relying on family, friends and even others who have been through recovery, leads to increased long-term abstinence.
Whether you choose to go into rehab, rely on self-help programs or get therapy, a strong support network is essential to recovery. Recovering from drug addiction is much easier when you have people you can lean on for encouragement, comfort and guidance.
2. Myth: Negative social stigma inhibits me from entering rehab.
A major challenge for those who have an addiction is overcoming the social stigma of addiction--the pervasive belief that it is a character flaw or a lack of will power. Remember what we said about addiction being recognized as a disease? Society would never consider someone with cancer to be a weak or flawed person.
The majority of substance abusers are just like everyone else. They are parents, children, friends, co-workers, sisters and brothers. They hold down jobs, have families and socialize with friends.
This negative stigma is one of the most difficult aspects of addiction to face. The negative connotations make it tougher for addicts and their families to admit addiction is a problem, deal with the problem, and get the help they need. For the most part, this negative label is your perception of what you imagine people are thinking of you. Don't let your own perception get in your way or stop you from seeking help. Establish a strong support group, hold your head high and know that you can enter rehab and succeed in your recovery.
3. Myth: If I am vulnerable, I will be seen as pathetic.
The fear of vulnerability is one of the most common concerns among addicts. The last thing many addicts want to do is to expose their innermost thoughts and feelings. Users often believe vulnerability equals helplessness.
The fear of having their true thoughts “uncovered” leads many users to numb the feeling with alcohol and drugs. Becoming open and unguarded are traits that must be learned over time. Emotional risks must be taken in order to have healthy connections and a life free of addiction.
Professional assistance is often required for the addict to learn how to embrace their “authentic self.” Many people seek the guidance of a respected mental health expert, while others find solace in group counseling. Breaking free of the fear of vulnerability is a truly life-changing experience.
4. Myth: Financial limitations are an obstacle to getting treatment.
Like much of the population, users may be struggling financially to pay for their basic needs. The myth that treatment is not affordable is simply another excuse to avoid facing the truth. There are options available so that financial hardship does not become an obstacle.
Many insurance companies cover treatment. Even without insurance, treatment facilities offer extensive options in financing treatment. There are even “scholarships” or the use of city and county funding sources. There are people and places that WANT to help when you want to BE helped.
5. Myth: Addicts must hit rock bottom before they're ready to accept treatment.
Yes, it’s true that addicts often don’t seek treatment until they’ve hit rock bottom and their lives are in complete turmoil. But that doesn’t mean all drug abusers and alcoholics must bottom out before they are ready to seek help.
In fact, research validates the argument that the sooner a substance abuser gets into treatment after developing an addiction, the better the chances will be for staying clean and sober.
Time is not on the addict’s side.
If you have a loved one who requires treatment, you already know that persuading an addict to accept help is not easy at any stage of the disease. Drug and alcohol rehabilitation counselors are specialists at breaking down the walls of denial that are typically put up by addicts who are initially resistant to treatment. Do not hesitate to engage an intervention expert for guidance in how to get your loved one to treatment.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction, do not let myths or false perceptions get in your way. Accept that addiction is a disease—not a character flaw—and there is help available. There is no better time than now to take the first step toward recovery. Please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 866-606-0182 to start the path to recovery today.