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6 Common Myths Related to Drug Use and Treatment

6 Common Myths Related to Drug Use and Treatment

Myths and truths about drug use and treatment.

Many people make assumptions about what causes substance use disorders and the best methods for treating them, but these issues are often more complicated than people realize. And the most pervasive myths tend to oversimplify. Let's explore some common misconceptions and get to the facts on substance use disorders.

Myth 1: Once an Addict, Always an Addict

Many people view substance use disorders as a lifelong disease. That is a fixed mindset based on the assumption that you can't retrain your brain to respond differently to triggers. While every case is individual, we believe in a growth mindset backed by science.

Myth 2: Only a 12-Step Program Works for Recovery

While many have success with 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, they aren't the only path to recovery. Evidence shows that 12-step programs don't work for everyone. And their focus around spiritual beliefs doesn't always resonate with people. 

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Myth 3: Stopping Drug Use Requires 30 Days of Rehab

The standard of 30 days of rehab is arbitrary. It often takes people much longer than that to recover from substance use disorders. Studies show that a longer duration of treatment correlates with better treatment outcomes. And while it's often helpful to get out of the environment in which you've been misusing substances, treatment approaches are individual.

Myth 4: Abstinence is the Most Effective Option

It's common to assume that recovery from substance use disorders means total abstinence. Researchers have found that mediation assisted therapy (MAT), which uses medications in addition to behavioral therapy, is more effective in producing successful outcomes than going "cold turkey."

Myth 5: Using Medications in Treatment Is Still "Using Drugs"

The medications doctors use in MAT don't produce the same effects as those a person may have been misusing as part of their substance use disorder. These medications are useful in helping manage the symptoms of withdrawal and are the most effective approach to reducing potentially fatal overdoses. If a patient is at risk for overdose, medication is a valuable tool to help prevent that from happening. 

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Myth 6: People Who Use Drugs Are Bad People

Popular culture has reinforced the stereotype that people who use drugs are bad or dangerous and can't be trusted. That isn't true. Substance use disorders affect people from all walks of life. You don't have to be a criminal or social deviant to have this experience. And many people who might benefit from treatment may be very functional in their lives and careers.

Myth 7: Substance Use Is Unrelated to Mental Health

While different people use drugs for various reasons, there is a high correlation between mental health disorders and substance use. That's why it's so important for a comprehensive treatment program to explore underlying mental health issues, including past traumas, that might contribute to a substance use disorder. 

Substance use disorders affect an alarming number of individuals and families. Misinformation about contributing factors and treatment approaches isn't useful in helping people address substance use issues and get the assistance that can help overcome them.

This article has been medically reviewed by
Erin Hillers
Clinical Team
Erin Hillers
Nurse Practitioner

Erin is a Nurse Practitioner with 8 years of experience in midwifery and women's health. She has spent the past 5 years specializing in the treatment of opioid and alcohol use disorders.

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