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Breaking Down the Myths about Substance Abuse Treatment

Breaking Down the Myths about Substance Abuse TreatmentThe efficacy of substance abuse treatment and the need for treatment is an interesting topic of discussion. Some believe that substance abusers cannot truly recover without treatment, while others feel treatment is unnecessary.

We also see treatment displayed in various ways in the media, adding to the widely-varying perspectives about what it’s all about and what it really looks like.

Maybe you or someone you love has made the first step by acknowledging your substance use has gotten out of hand and you are ready to get help.

However, you’ve heard several things about attending treatment, some good and some bad. What’s the truth?

It is important to be aware of the common myths about treatment for substance abuse. By becoming aware of the facts, we can make an educated decision regarding the need for treatment and whether it can be beneficial.

Myth: All treatment centers are the same.

Fact: There are several types of treatment centers and several different forms of treatment. Treatment should be individualized; therefore, you should receive the type of treatment that works for you. Facilities have treatment teams that consist of doctors, therapists, and other staff members who will work to develop the best treatment plan for you. Research facilities before committing to find the best fit.

Myth: Treatment isn’t necessary because people can stop using drugs if they really want to.

Fact: Research shows that a person’s brain chemistry changes with long-term substance abuse. This makes it difficult to simply just quit. If a person is truly addicted to a substance it may be easy to stop using for short periods of time; however, it is extremely difficult to achieve long-term abstinence.

Myth: Treatment doesn’t work until you’ve hit “rock bottom.”

Fact: Not everyone has to reach their “bottom” before treatment can be effective. Once a person has acknowledged that their substance use has become problematic and they are willing to be open to the possibility of living a substance-free life, treatment can work. You don’t have to be homeless, lose your job, lose your family, or lose everything before treatment can work. The earlier you engage in treatment, the better.

Myth: If I enter treatment, I’ll definitely lose my job.

Fact: Depending on your employer, this may not be the case. Many employers have programs in place to allow for substance users to get help. Before you decline treatment in fear of losing your job, check with your HR department to investigate the policies regarding seeking treatment.

Myth: Treatment has to be voluntary in order for it to work.

Fact: While success rates may be higher for those who have volunteered to go to treatment because they are internally motivated, there are others who succeed after first being only externally motivated. People “forced” into treatment under legal circumstances or following an intervention can benefit as well. Sometimes the exposure to treatment allows an individual to become more aware of how problematic their substance use has become.

Myth:Treatment is a waste of time and money.

Fact: Treatment is not only beneficial for the cessation of substance use, but while in treatment individuals can work on other addictive behaviors. Research has shown that treatment reduces criminal thinking and behavior, reduces the risk for infectious diseases due to substance use and activities, and improves chances for employment and overall health and well-being.

Myth: If I go to treatment, I’ll have to stop “cold turkey.”

Fact: Each case is looked at individually. However, if you have concerns about the horrible effects of withdrawals, there is likely no need for concern. While the point of treatment is to stop the use of substances, treatment providers want you to be safe and make you comfortable during this process. This does not mean withdrawals will be a walk in the park, but providers are likely to link you with a detox program where you can be medically monitored if necessary.

Educate yourself on the facts about treatment and find if it can be beneficial for you or your loved ones. The only way you will know is by getting the facts yourself.

Breaking Down the Myths about Substance Abuse Treatment

Donna M. White, LPCI, CACP

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APA Reference
White, D. (2018). Breaking Down the Myths about Substance Abuse Treatment. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 6 Jul 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.