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The truth about 5 common substance use myths

By The Health News Team | June 29, 2023
Person sitting on couch with hands clasped

Misconceptions surrounding addiction have proven to contribute to the ongoing national opioid epidemic. However, understanding the truths about addiction, treatment and recovery can help people with addiction disorders get the care they need and inform their loved ones about the best way to offer support.

In 2021, more than 100,000 people in the U.S. died from a drug overdose. Serene Carruthers, LMFT, with Sharp McDonald Center, debunks five common substance use myths in an effort to slow rates of addiction disorders and related deaths.

MYTH: People with a substance use disorder (SUD) simply lack the willpower to stop using.

SUD is a chronic medical disease. There are physiological, behavioral and psychological impacts from use, all of which make it difficult to stop using.

“SUD occurs when someone struggles to discontinue substance use despite experiencing many substance-related problems, such as other illnesses, legal issues and interpersonal conflict,” says Carruthers.

MYTH: If you have a substance use disorder, quitting cold turkey is effective.

Sudden cessation is likely to cause serious health consequences. It can also lead to intense cravings of substance use, severe mood states and other dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Stopping substance use in the short-term can lead to a dangerous cycle of continued use.

MYTH: You can only get treated for a substance use disorder if you hit “rock bottom.”

Treatment and early invention can effectively lower the “bottom” for those affected by SUD. There is no reason for someone to suffer the numerous devastating consequences associated with addiction before they embark on the path of recovery.

“As with any change in life, one’s motivation and commitment to making difficult choices will impact the outcome — while at the same time, treatment can help,” says Carruthers. "Compassionate clinicians are available to help with various treatment options."

MYTH: You can’t receive addiction treatment while taking care of your family and yourself, or going to work or school.

Treatment recommendations always prioritize safety first. Among the various offerings at Sharp McDonald Center, the partial hospitalization program supports patients with intensive services five days a week for six hours a day. “These options can support individuals to continue their home life while they receive a high-level of support and structure,” says Carruthers.

Sharp McDonald Center also provides an intensive outpatient program available in the mornings and evenings that runs three days a week for three hours a day. This allows people to continue their personal lives, such as working or attending school. Engaging in treatment and maintaining sobriety can lay the foundation for a lifetime of achievement and responsibility.

MYTH: Relapse means you’ve failed.

The recovery process is expected to include challenges. The symptoms that make substance use disorders difficult for people to manage on their own can lead to an unintentional return to unhealthy coping mechanisms. 

Relapse may be a step on the path of recovery, and a structured treatment program with a full continuity of care is available to help patients. Programs will also use harm reduction interventions, which intend to decrease the damage of substance use.

Learn more about addiction treatment services at Sharp McDonald Center.

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