Myths vs. Realities of Addiction and BehaviorAnna Ciulla
Myths vs. Realities of Addiction and Behavior.
Only a fraction of the people who need help for addiction actually get it. Sometimes, it’s because they and their families and friends misunderstand many of the truths of addiction, especially when deep in the midst of it themselves. To make it easier, let’s separate some of the facts from the fiction.
Myth: Willpower is enough to quit.
No matter how genuine their desire to quit, an addict is going to need help. Before they can get to the psychological roots of their problem, they must first overcome the physiological dependence they’ve developed over years of substance abuse. This shouldn’t be done at home. Depending on what they were abusing, quitting cold turkey can be unhealthy, and possibly even deadly, especially if alcohol or Benzodiazepines are involved. With opiates, the withdrawal is often so miserable that addicts will start using again just so they don’t have to experience it. Instead, leave this hurdle to the professionals. At a rehabilitation center, the patient will get not only the emotional support they need to make it through, but the medical attention as well.
Myth: You can’t ask for help.
This applies to the addict, but just as much to their loved ones. Feelings of shame may keep us from asking for help, but there is a support network available to help us through every part of this difficult process. A medical professional, a religious leader, or a trusted friend can offer advice in a confidential environment. If an intervention is eventually needed, these are the people who you can rely on to help out.
Myth: Addicts are homeless derelicts.
There is no perfect picture of an addict—your best friend, your next door neighbor, or the person you least expect could all be struggling with addiction. That’s why it’s so important to notice the signs. Addiction is an equal opportunity disease, affecting people of all ages, genders, and ethnicities. While teens and young adults traditionally have the highest rates of drug use, today, the fastest growing population of rehabilitation patients are middle-class Baby Boomers.
Myth: An addict has to hit rock bottom to change.
Motivation is a key component to kickstarting an addict to seek and maintain sobriety. Most are aware they have a problem, but they’re not sure if their co-workers notice, or maybe their family members are too reluctant to confront them. Sometimes all it takes is one concerned person to say something to get the ball rolling. Step in before they lose their job or destroy their friendships, which will be important assets in their life after rehabilitation. The fewer bridges they burn, the more stability they have when they are sober—and the more likely they are to stay on the right path.
Reality: You may be an enabler.
You don’t have to hand an addict a bottle of alcohol or pills to serve as their enabler. By ignoring the problem or quietly blaming yourself, you’re not addressing the issue at hand, and you may be helping the addict fall deeper down their spiral. It may be difficult, but when it comes to addiction, it’s better to confront the issue before it’s too late.
Reality: Rehabilitation is expensive.
Depending on the treatment program, rehabilitation can cost tens of thousands of dollars, especially if it’s an inpatient facility. Many insurance plans can defer some or all of those costs, but some will limit the length and type of treatment the patient receives. A good treatment program will offer assistance to determine what insurance will cover. The facility will work with the insurance company to ensure that the benefits to which the insured is entitled are made available. If insurance is not available, check to see if their desired program offers financial assistance or financing options, and start talking about alternative methods of paying for treatment, like loans or credit.
Reality: But addiction is more expensive.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that billions of dollars are spent on the fallout from addiction each year. Loss of productivity, emergency services, related health problems and crime are just a few of the societal costs. And then there’s the human costs, like lost jobs, destroyed relationships and wasted lives. You can’t put a price on your loved one.
Reality: It’s easy to relapse.
Studies show that drug addicts have a 40-60 percent chance of relapsing in their lifetime. For alcohol, it’s 50-90 percent. Relapse rates are higher if patients don’t continue to rely on the resources they developed during their rehabilitation program, but the rates do decrease with each passing year of sustained sobriety.
The important thing is for the addict to continue to seek support. Outpatient services and support groups are essential, but the support of loved ones is just as important, Don’t hesitate to seek help if it seems like something’s gone wrong. Keep an eye out for the warning signs.