Lots of people don’t like talking about drug treatment programs. The idea of stepping away from your life for a while is scary, and the depths of addiction are terrifying. Because we don’t like to talk about drug rehab, there are a lot of common misconceptions about the industry. Here, we want to clear up some of the most common myths swirling around what goes on at drug treatment facilities. We’ll also touch on some about addiction in general.
If you don’t have the right information, you’re probably not going to get the right kind of help. People are often hesitant to enter drug treatment programs because of the shame and stigma associated with addiction. We hope this piece makes the whole process feel a lot less shadowy and scary, and that by the end, you’re ready to reach out to drug treatment facilities for yourself or for a loved one.
From misconceptions about the people who seek drug treatment to outright falsehoods about the treatment process itself, we’ve compiled 12 myths about drug treatment facilities and their services. You can skim to find the ones you currently believe, or you can read it all the way through and get the broader picture. Of course, we’ll never be able to clear up all the false ideas about drug addiction and its treatment in this short blog post, so if you have more questions, don’t hesitate to contact us here.
With that out of the way, let’s jump into it. Here are 12 myths about drug treatment programs and the facts that dispel them.
Myth #1: Drug treatment programs aren’t necessary. Just summon some willpower.
This is one of the most culturally pervasive myths about drug treatment facilities, and it’s just simply not true. Addiction is a disease, and we need to treat it as such. There’s no shame in seeking treatment, and it’s not a moral failing if you can’t control your drug use on your own. Drug treatment programs are absolutely necessary.
Willpower alone is likely not going to be enough to get your life back on track. If you’re struggling with a substance use disorder, you might also be dealing with co-occurring mental health conditions, struggles finding or keeping a job, difficult relationships with friends and family, and other hardships. Willpower isn’t going to fix those things, but they are all things drug treatment programs help their clients with.
Moralizing medical treatment isn’t helpful, and it’s not a sign of weakness to seek the drug treatment programs you need. Consider this myth busted.
Myth #2: Detox and rehab are synonymous.
Detoxification is the first part of most drug treatment programs. That’s the period of time where you have to get all of the substances that you’ve been abusing out of your system. It can be very uncomfortable, but that’s why people go to drug treatment facilities to detox. Medical professionals can prescribe certain drugs that will help alleviate the withdrawal symptoms you’re experiencing, helping you through the detox phase. It’s also helpful to be under medical supervision in case of any really dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
Rehab, on the other hand, is a catchall term that refers to the whole drug treatment process. When people talk about “going to rehab,” they usually mean entering inpatient drug treatment facilities. Medically assisted detox is usually just the first stage of the programs at one of these centers. There’s so much more to learn about sober living after you’ve gotten those substances out of your system. That’s why you’ll go through some kind of counseling at drug treatment facilities, most often a mix of group and one-on-one sessions.
You can read more about the whole rehab process here, but for now, just know that detox is a tiny sliver of rehab, not the same thing.
Myth #3: Inpatient drug treatment programs are only for the wealthy.
We’ve all seen the stories about A-list actors taking up residence in stunning drug treatment facilities, getting access to all kinds of high-dollar amenities while they get sober.
Although celebrities make headlines when they enter drug treatment facilities, that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones who can afford treatment. The fancy drug treatment facilities out in Malibu aren’t the only options. There are likely more reasonable centers in an area near you. Lots of insurance plans cover inpatient drug treatment programs, and it can absolutely be financially feasible for a lot of people.
Contact the drug treatment facilities you’re considering to talk about your payment options. They should be able to help you determine if your insurance will cover treatment.
Myth #4: Medication-assisted detox is just switching one addiction for another.
Like we mentioned in an earlier section, sometimes doctors use medications to help people with substance use disorders. There’s no comparing using medication as it is intended and prescribed to an addiction. Especially with certain kinds of drug addictions like opioids, there’s a huge amount of evidence that these medications can make all the difference. Methadone and buprenorphine are the most common medications used to treat opioid addiction, and they mimic some of opioids’ effects on the brain without the more adverse symptoms. This can drastically reduce withdrawal symptoms, drug seeking behaviors, and criminal activity when properly monitored.
Don’t deny yourself access to the appropriate care because you think it’s weak or swapping one addiction for another. That’s simply not the case. Taking the right steps toward sobriety means using medications for some people, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Plus, you’ll be under intense supervision at drug treatment facilities to reduce the likelihood that you’re going to misuse those drugs. That’s wildly different from developing a different substance use disorder.
Myth #5: If people relapse after they complete drug treatment programs, then they’ve failed.
It’s actually quite common for people to need multiple courses of treatment before they reach lasting sobriety. A relapse shouldn’t be seen as a failure, because it’s completely normal. If you relapse, don’t feel like you’re back at square one. It might feel like all the work you’ve already put in is wasted. That’s not true. You’ve already learned a lot about yourself, the nature of addiction, and what recovery entails. You can use all that knowledge moving forward.
Moralizing a relapse is not going to help you get back on track. Relapses are normal and possible to move on from. So, they’re not a failure, and it doesn’t mean you’re a failure for having one.
Myth #6: People have to enter drug treatment programs with no reservations for them to work.
It’s very rare to have someone feel completely ready to embrace sobriety when they enter drug treatment facilities. It’s much more common to have some misgivings and trepidation about the process before it begins. In fact, two of the most common reasons people enter drug treatment facilities are because their friends and family urged them to, or because they were ordered by a court to do it.
It can definitely help when someone enters treatment voluntarily and looking forward to sobriety, but being encouraged by outside sources doesn’t mean they won’t see any results.
Myth #7: Going to rehab means everyone in the community will know about your drug use.
Obviously, some of this will depend on your location — news tends to travel faster in small towns, and it’s usually easier to stay fairly anonymous in a big, urban setting. But the details of your drug treatment are completely private between you and your treatment team. Nobody is going to know your private medical information.
Plus, there’s nothing shameful about seeking treatment for your drug addiction. Some people would rather keep that kind of information private, and that’s understandable, but it shouldn’t be something that you’re terrified of people finding out.
If you would like to play it safe on the privacy side of things, you might want to consider drug treatment facilities far away from you. We’ve written about making that choice here if you’d like some more guidance.
Myth #8: You’ll automatically get fired if you go to drug treatment programs.
There are actually several federal laws that protect people from getting fired for seeking treatment under certain circumstances. First, there’s the Family and Medical Leave Act, which might protect you from being dismissed, depending on how big the company you work for is, how long you’ve worked there, and how their substance abuse policy is written, if they have one.
Next, there’s the Americans with Disabilities Act, which covers drug addiction as a disability. Again, there’s some murkiness about whether you’ll be covered or not, depending on if you’re considered a “current” substance abuser or not. For example, you’re probably not covered if you’ve been coming to work high or putting your coworkers in danger. Those who are currently participating in drug treatment programs are likely covered.
Of course, these are all complicated and hard to navigate on your own. The drug treatment facilities you’re considering might be able to help you figure out where you are and aren’t protected, as can your HR department.
Myth #9: Once you successfully complete an inpatient program, that’s it, you’re cured.
Unfortunately, drug treatment programs don’t work like that. An inpatient rehab is just the beginning of a lifelong recovery journey. Your program should set up some kind of aftercare plan for you after you successfully complete that initial program. Whether that’s continued outpatient therapy, support groups, or a sober living situation, you’ll need continued support in order to maintain that sobriety.
Myth #10: Addicts can’t get better until they reach rock bottom.
Getting in touch with drug treatment facilities as soon as you suspect there’s a problem is the best way to go. “Rock bottom” isn’t a clinical designation, so how are you supposed to know when you’ve hit your lowest point?
Also know that there are various different types of drug treatment programs. More severe addictions are going to benefit from inpatient treatment, but if you seek treatment early on, you might be best suited to an outpatient program.
People can make healthy steps to achieve and maintain sobriety whether they’re at “rock bottom” or not.
Myth #11: Drug treatment programs are only for young adults.
The stereotypical idea of someone entering drug treatment is probably someone in their late 20s, and plenty of young adults do seek drug treatment, but that’s just a slice of the whole population. The truth is, plenty of teenagers and older adults can benefit from drug treatment programs. Addiction doesn’t have an age limit. There’s no such thing as being too young or too old for treatment. Teenagers can have serious addictions, and there’s no reason for older adults not to live the rest of their lives as healthfully as possible. Don’t let age hold you back from getting the help you need.
Myth #12: If drug treatment programs don’t work the first time, there’s no use trying again.
Hopefully, you can clock this one as a very obvious myth by now. As we’ve said in previous sections, it takes most people multiple courses of treatment before they reach lasting sobriety. It’s not true that just because an inpatient program didn’t work the first time, or if someone left the program early, that that kind of treatment is never going to work for them. Although your insurance might not cover a second inpatient stay for you if you leave treatment the first time against medical advice, that doesn’t mean it won’t work or that there’s no use in trying it again. It just means it didn’t work out that time.
Don’t let these myths stop you from getting the help you need.
Now you know that none of these myths are true. The barriers to entry might not be as high as you previously assumed — rehab isn’t just for celebrities, after all, and insurance can often help you pay for treatment. Or, maybe you’ve started breaking down internal barriers to seeking treatment now that you know relapses are unfortunate but normal, and that people young and old regularly benefit from drug treatment programs.
Maybe the myths you believed were more on the shame and stigma side of the equation. Now that you know those fears are natural but unfounded, you’re more willing to take the plunge and seek treatment. Whatever your circumstances were before you read through our list of myths, we hope you think at least a little bit more positively about drug treatment facilities and their important work now.