5 Addiction Myths Which Make Recovery Harder

Recovery is a prolonged process. Understandably, years of prescription drug addiction treatment have spawned numerous studies, recovery methods and scientific ways to help suffering individuals. Between outpatient alcohol treatment centers, opiate detox centers, at-home addiction counseling and in-depth psychological assistance programs, today’s addicts have quite a lot of support.

For every supportive recovery method, however, there are practices which undermine recovery. Because our information on addiction is wide and varied, several myths have spawned which can rob addiction recovery of its effectiveness.

There’s a lot of misinformation in the modern medical world.

There’s also a lot of misinformation surrounding opiate addiction treatment medication, ongoing care and addiction itself. We believe every patient deserves the best treatment possible. So, we’d like to pinpoint several addiction-related myths which may make recovery harder—or, worse, impossible.

Addiction Myth One: People Normally Get Addicted to a Single Substance

You’ve probably heard this rumor: Most addicts have a drug of choice. This rumor isn’t true, however, and it has consistently hindered the effectiveness of alcohol treatment centers, detox treatment centers and at-home care for years.

In fact, polysubstance abuse—or the abuse of three or more substance classes—is actually the norm, rather than the exception. Some addicts use multiple substances to create stronger highs, as their tolerances to single-substance highs, over time, diminishes. An example of this would be “speed-balling,” or combining heroin and cocaine to create a multifaceted high.

addiction myth
Addiction Myth One: People Normally Get Addicted to a Single Substance

Other addicts, meanwhile, may take a substance to counteract the undesirable effects of another. Typically, the secondary substance is alcohol—which can be consumed to lessen the blow of stimulant withdrawal. A lot of inpatient alcohol treatment centers, in fact, often receive individuals suffering from alcoholism due to an addiction to other substances.

Other polysubstance abusers may supplement their primary drug with whatever substance is on-hand. In these cases, an addicted individual may swap heroin and prescription opiates in and out—attempting to mimic specific highs with currently available substances. Opiate detox centers, like alcohol treatment centers, often examine their patients closely for this reason. Too often, opiate-addicted individuals may have deeper—and far more dangerous—addictions at play.

Why This Addiction Myth is Dangerous

Because many believe addicted individuals have a “drug of choice,” family members and friends are less likely to be referred to appropriate detox centers. Sadly, loved ones may write off their addiction as a minor issue—such as having cravings for pain pills following chronic pain. In reality, the suffering individual may have multiple addictions unbeknownst to their family and friends.

Polysubstance abuse is highly common among males—especially those who use drugs at an early age, throughout adolescence, and in early adulthood. Individuals who are polysubstance abusers are also more likely to struggle with one or several mental illnesses. These mental illnesses make polysubstance abuse far riskier, making it harder to treat than common drug abuse.

If you have a loved one you suspect may be addicted to a substance, contact an inpatient treatment center immediately. It can be difficult to tell whether a person is taking multiple substances, and many people die from polysubstance abuse every year.

Addiction Myth Two: A Prescription Drug Addiction Isn’t as Dangerous as Illegal Drug Addiction

While prescription drugs may be legal, they’re certainly not safer. Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic-levels in the past 10 years. Unfortunately, the use of legal drugs to garner a high carries a softer stigma than the use of illegal drugs.

Modern medications, such as Adderall, Valium, Vicodin, and Percocet, can be legally prescribed by a doctor. These medications are relatively safe when used as prescribed. They can be highly addictive, however, if the individual isn’t careful with their dosage timing and intensity. Because these medications are already in the individual’s room, medicine cabinet or bathroom, they’re easily accessible. The most commonly abused prescription drugs—including over-the-counter-medications—include the following:

  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Opioids
  • Amphetamines
  • Dextromethorphan
  • Pseudoephedrine

As for public misconception: Many believe these drugs are far safer than illicit substances, like heroin, cocaine or marijuana. They are not. If an individual consumes a prescription medication in a higher dose—and far more often than they should be, for their condition—the medication impacts the same brain areas as many illicit drugs. Then, the possibility of addiction is increased.

Why This Addiction Myth is Dangerous

The misinformation surrounding legal substances can create a lot of problems.

Every year, family members support the use of opiates to loved ones in pain. Meanwhile, misinformed teens—and even parents—accept these substances as “okay” in the realm of medicine use. While these substances were indeed created to help individuals overcome difficult injuries, mental disorders, and other problems, their misuse can result in long-term addiction.

Addiction to these substances is as dangerous—if not more—than illegal substances. Because the stigma of illegality is removed, medication-using patients have a much easier time obtaining their substances. Similarly, the possibility of relapse is much higher due to accessibility.

Prescription drug addiction is a serious problem.

In 2014, alone, over 1,700 young adults died from prescription drug overdose. This number was higher than any other drug, including cocaine and heroin combined. Because prescription drug addiction can be relatively hidden, it can be difficult to spot a loved one with underlying problems.

Addiction Myth Three: Addiction Recovery Shouldn’t Be Comfortable

The large-scale incarceration of substance abusers has perpetuated this myth. While illegal substance abuse should certainly be countered by the law, many believe addiction recovery shouldn’t be comfortable. Leading addiction authorities to agree that addiction, rather than a direct crime, is a chronic disease—a disease similar to diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

As per one study recorded by the American Society of Addiction Medicine: “Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.

Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.”

Despite similar studies, addicts are still treated as if they’re second-class citizens. For this reason, modern inpatient alcohol rehab centers, heroin addiction treatment centers, and ongoing care providers constantly struggle with assisting patients who’ve been ostracized by friends, family and general society.

In other cases, law enforcement—and even those responsible for providing addiction recovery—believe shame-based methods can motivate addicts. On the contrary, research highlights shame as a major indicator of addict relapse. For an addicted individual, feeling shame about previous use can increase the likelihood of relapse and promote a harder addiction.

Why This Addiction Myth is Dangerous

Modern media perpetuates this myth—suggesting there is a “right” and “wrong” way to undergo recovery. Sadly, numerous heroin addiction treatment centers, inpatient alcohol rehab centers, and even outpatient alcohol rehab centers are negatively impacted by such suggestions. Some even believe high-end treatment centers harm addicted individuals indirectly by making their stay comfortable.

The many upscale amenities provided by addiction treatment centers, like equine therapy and neurofeedback, can greatly assist clients. In fact, comfortable recovery environments can strengthen the relationship between client and therapist, greatly improving the chance of recovery.

This particular addiction-based myth directly reduces the speed of recovery while also increasing the chance of relapse. For this reason, friends and family members are urged to communicate with addicted loved ones effectively.

addiction rock bottom myth
Addiction Myth Four: An Addict Needs to Hit “Rock Bottom”

Addiction Myth Four: An Addict Needs to Hit “Rock Bottom”

A common myth surrounding pre-treatment addiction is that an addicted individual needs to hit “rock bottom” before recovery is necessary. Specifically, many believe addiction isn’t a critical problem until medical or legal intervention is required.

Unfortunately, a person at their “bottom” may not be able to be helped. Every person has a different bottom level, addiction-wise, and every individual may show different signs when at different stages of their addiction cycle.

For some addicted individuals, being arrested may be a “bottom.”

For others, an all-time-low event could be being homeless. The “rock bottom” level is a subjective one—and it can be misinterpreted by both addicted individuals and those attempting to help them.

In fact, many addicted individuals have less dramatic rock bottoms. Losing a loving relationship, for example, is a rock bottom which is indicative of needed support. Or, a rock bottom could be a confrontation with a family member, teacher or friend. Little evidence supports the rock-bottom theory of consequences. Individuals attempting to succeed in recovery needn’t face a critical, life-changing event before doing so. Substance abuse should be approached with care, and it should be treated immediately.

Why This Addiction Myth is Dangerous

The level of consequences a person accumulates before needing care shouldn’t be relevant. Every year, thousands of addicted individuals aren’t referred to treatment because they simply haven’t “bottomed out” yet. Opiate addiction treatment medication is a major player, here, as addicted individuals can commonly consume opiates, in an addictive way, before ever facing a significant event of consequence.

Many outpatient alcohol rehab centers, too, are working to counteract the “rock bottom” myth. Because alcohol is a legal drug, its common abuse can result in such radical thinking. Sadly, many alcohol-addicted individuals lose important personal relationships, erode their education and lose important job opportunities because of the rock-bottom way of thinking.

Addiction Myth Five: Enough Willpower Can Overcome Addiction

Willpower is often cited as one of the most powerful tools a recovering addict can possess. While true, this statement often supports “do-it-yourself” recovery methods—wherein addicted individuals assume their willpower is enough to counteract an addiction’s powerful chemical influences. From a lack of exercise to studying for class, willpower is useful. However, willpower is mostly effective when choices are presented.

In many cases, addiction isn’t a choice.

Willpower, often, can’t defeat addiction independently. As many heroin rehab providers suggest: A safe, proactive space is required to give the individual’s willpower a place to thrive. Choosing to quit a heroin addiction—or any addiction, for that matter—isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Conviction alone won’t beat a mental, or physical, dependency.

Withdrawal is a major reason for this—as it is both dangerous and comfortable while also having a seductive nature, in terms of relapse potential.

While physical withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures, cold sweats, heart palpitations or delirium tremens are incredibly difficult to combat against with willpower, withdrawal’s negative mental effects, like anxiety and depression, directly consume a person’s willpower—making recovery a lot harder.

Why This Addiction Myth is Dangerous

Many addicted individuals assume they can circumnavigate the long, drawn-out or pricy factors associated with administrative addiction treatment. Because willpower is often discussed as a driving factor of recovery, a lot of addicted individuals avoid heroin rehab, alcohol rehab or stimulant rehab. They simply assume—in no fault of their own—that their own willpower can sustain their recovery.

Recovery itself isn’t a one-shot deal, either. It’s a difficult, time-consuming process. For many addicted individuals, the road to recovery has many twists and turns. Administrative guidance is required to channel the individual’s willpower—directing them through withdrawal, mental training ongoing cravings and more. In the same way, punishment often doesn’t help addicted individuals, a hands-off approach to addiction treatment tends to fail.

How to Approach Addiction Recovery

addiction recovery approach
How to Approach Addiction Recovery

In general, one-dimensional approaches to addiction treatment don’t work. Addiction comes in many shapes and sizes. So, too, does treatment. Professional providers are specifically trained to offer multifaceted recovery systems—giving patients much-needed mental and physical tools to reduce the chance of relapse. For many addicted individuals, normal life is entirely possible. Such a life needs to be chased alongside professional help, however. Alongside medically-supervised detox, therapy and physical exercise are absolute requirements.

If you have a friend or loved you suspect may be addicted, you shouldn’t wait before considering professional options. Talk to them. Ask them questions. Don’t treat them like a criminal, however. Don’t assume that any one method is good enough to eliminate their addiction. Certainly, don’t rely on their willpower to eliminate their addiction. Addiction can warm and change all aspects of life, span across career prospects, romantic relationships and home life. With long-term substance abuse habits come a variety of negative circumstances. Help your loved one reclaim their life today.

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