“By talking about addiction in the light of day — and by celebrating recovery out loud — we can help correct the misinformation and stigma that become obstacles for people who want to live healthy, productive lives.” – Gil Kerlikowski

In 2012, Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, delivered a speech that called for a “paradigm shift” on substance abuse, whereby addiction would be considered a public health issue and not a crime.

Kerlikowske’s speech focused on changing the way Americans view addiction, moving away from punishment and toward prevention, treatment and recovery. But in order for a real “paradigm shift” to occur, there are a few common myths of treatment that must be debunked.

Misconceptions can be a barrier to treatment. They can feed a cycle of shame, resent, and negativity. They can prevent addicts from asking for help when they need it. The best way to combat misconceptions is to be educated about the truth.

Myth #1 – Addicts/Alcoholics Are Just Weak

In his speech, Kerlikowski noted that addiction “is not a moral failing on the part of the individual, but a chronic disease of the brain that can be treated.”

Society often views addicts/alcoholics as simply lazy and unlikely to change. This is just not true. Addiction is a disease that crosses all socio-economic boundaries, from high-functioning executives to high school dropouts. Although most addicts/alcoholics are resistant to treatment, they will begin to see the possibility of a fuller life once they begin the recovery journey. The important thing is: they are not “bad” people with just a lack of self-control.

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Myth #2 – Addicts/Alcoholics Have to Hit Rock Bottom

Addicts/alcoholics come in many forms — even if the individual has not hit the stereotypical ‘rock bottom,’ he or she can still benefit from drug and alcohol treatment. The ultimate goal of recovery is to prevent the all-time low from taking place.

Myth #3 – Addicts/Alcoholics Have to Want Treatment

Oftentimes family members believe the addict/alcoholic has to want treatment in order to experience success. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is rare that a person enrolls in treatment out of sheer desire. Instead, he or she is typically forced into treatment by a spouse or significant other, the judicial system or an employer, to name a few. It isn’t until some time has passed in addiction treatment that the individual sees the promise of recovery. It is okay if someone doesn’t have a desire for treatment; there can still be a potential for change.

Myth #4 – Addicts/Alcoholics Must Recover for Themselves

This sort of ties back to myth #3. Addicts/alcoholics don’t have to want to be in treatment, nor do they have to recover for themselves. If they maintain the frame of mind that they’re in recovery for a loved one, that’s okay. There are many parents that enter into recovery for their children’s sake. And that’s okay. The point is, they are in treatment. The important thing is that they are supported, accepted, and capable of change.

Myth #5 – All Addiction Treatment Facilities Are the Same

Sometimes the addict/alcoholic goes through several rehab centers until he or she finds lasting recovery. Family members often become exhausted and discouraged at this point, and they begin to think all facilities are alike. This is simply not true. Every addiction treatment center is different.  Here at MARR, we focus on gender-specific, long-term residential treatment and the Therapeutic Community model. When searching for the best drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, conduct extensive research before making a decision.