Five Myths About Addiction Recovery

September is National Recovery Month; a national observance held every September to educate Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with a mental and/or substance use disorder to live a healthy and rewarding life. Recovery Month celebrates the gains made by those in recovery, just as we celebrate health improvements made by those who are managing other health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and heart disease. The observance reinforces the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can recover. The 2020 Recovery Month observance will work to inspire people across the country to recognize the strength and resilience of individuals living in recovery as well as to support those with substance use disorders or co-occurring disorders to consider seeking treatment.” 

-NAADAC (The Association for Addiction Professionals) 

 

Humble, honest, and courageous are generally not the first words that come to mind when our society talks about substance abuse and mental health. However, individuals who enter recovery have all of these qualities. Unfortunately, the stigma associated with recovery is one of the most significant roadblocks to treatment. The hope is that as a society, we can learn the truth about addiction, debunk the popular myths, and eliminate the stigma associated with addiction recovery.  

 

Myth: Addiction is a choice 

Many people in our society are under the impression that addiction is a choice and that addiction is a bad habit, resulting from moral weakness and overindulgence. Although initial drug use is something we choose, over time, addiction changes our brain chemistry to the point that our brains become re-wired to feel as though we “need” the addicted drug, habit, or food that we initially chose to put into our bodies. When this happens, the individual no longer appears to have a choice, as their brain is now hijacked. As this point, use and misuse become an addiction. Addiction itself is a disorder that affects our emotions, thoughts, brain chemistry, and bodies. The brain changes associated with addiction can be treated and reversed through therapy, medication, exercise, 

 

Myth: Prescription drug abuse is different than illicit drug abuse 

“ If it’s a prescription, it must be safe; you can’t get addicted to something your doctor prescribes”.  

This is a common misconception as some prescription medications such as benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, etc.) and opioids (morphine, Norco, Percocet, etc.) are extremely addictive and have a high potential for lethal overdose. In 2018, 41 people died each day from overdoses involving prescription opioids, totaling nearly 15,000 deaths, according to the CDC. 

 

Myth: Addiction only happens with one type of substance 

Our society often believes that individuals have one drug of choice and become addicted to that specific drug. Although this may be true initially, polysubstance abuse is much more common, and not the exception. Polysubstance abuse is the use of three or more classes of substances. Some people use multiple substances to create a more intense high, such as combining cocaine and heroin, a term known as “speed-balling”. Other individuals use certain drugs to counteract the undesirable effects of another drug. An example would be using alcohol or benzodiazepines to come down from stimulants. Treatment for polysubstance abuse is similar to treatment for one drug of abuse, as underlying triggers associated with drug use must be identified and addressed to develop applicable and healthy coping skills. Therapy is often combined with medications to ease the withdrawal effects and hopefully carry out long-term positive behavioral and thought pattern changes.  

 

Myth: Relapse means that treatment is not effective 

Although relapse rate statistics seem to vary depending on the treatment center and study, relapse can occur. It does not mean that treatment has failed or that sobriety is a lost cause. It is a signal to get back on track by going back to treatment or adjusting the treatment approach.  

For example, one may relapse because they undergo a severe stressor such as a big move, a change in a job, or a divorce. They could be following their treatment program and be in recovery for years, but relapse can occur at any time. Some relapses may be worse than others, as some individuals may have to re-enter treatment, whereas others may address their relapse and the underlying causes on their own.  

 

Myth: If you have a stable job and a healthy family life, you are free from addiction 

Addiction has no leaps or bounds, meaning that it can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, social class, or background. Having a stable career or a loving family while struggling with alcohol use or drug use disorder does not mean you are free of addiction. Instead, it means that you have a tolerant spouse, are hiding your symptoms, are in denial, or have co-dependent people in your life who allow you to function with your addiction. Many “successful” corporate white-collared workers struggle with alcohol use and other substance use disorders. Even if they are “functioning” they should still seek treatment as it is only a matter of time before they will downward spiral. 

 

Casa Palmera can help 

At Casa Palmera, our goal is whole-person healing; we treat the whole person and not just the disorder. Our dedicated treatment team goes underneath the surface of a presenting problem to determine the underlying triggers and address the root so that it doesn’t manifest itself in other ways. Our goal is not to treat the wound with a Band-Aid but instead develop a permanent solution to problems that are preventing you from living your happiest and healthiest life. Our clinical staff works with you to create an individualized treatment plan that includes therapy approaches for your specific needs and tools that will improve your life on a holistic level. Learn more about Casa Palmera here and see how Casa Palmera’s programs can help you transform your mind, body, and soul.