Substance use disorder (SUD), sometimes referred to as “addiction,” is one of the most misunderstood and stigmatized health conditions that exists. Unfortunately, bias against people who use drugs (PWUD) and individuals with an SUD can have incredibly harmful consequences. This includes discouraging individuals from seeking the SUD or addiction treatment they need due to stigma. Such bias can also impact the quality of care delivered by medical or other providers, influencing factors like response times and decisions on whether an individual receives or stays in treatment.
One of the most effective ways to combat the stigma around SUD is education. In today’s post, we’ll dispel 5 common myths about addiction treatment and recovery.
What is Addiction?
While many still use the term “addiction,” medical and behavioral health professionals encourage adopting language that reflects our current understanding of this chronic medical condition. The term “substance use disorder” accurately describes addiction as a chronic — yet treatable — disorder characterized by continuing alcohol and/or drug seeking and use despite negative consequences.
Let’s look at a few common updated terms and their meanings:
- Substance Use Disorder (SUD) — According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), SUDs are “treatable, chronic diseases characterized by a problematic pattern of use of a substance or substances leading to impairments in health, social function, and control over substance use.” The CDC notes that “SUDs can range in severity from mild to severe and can affect people of any race, gender, income level, or social class.”
- Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) — The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines AUD as a “medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences,” noting that “it encompasses the conditions that some people refer to as alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, and the colloquial term, alcoholism.”
- Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) — The CDC defines OUD as a substance use disorder characterized by a “problematic pattern of opioid use that causes significant impairment or distress.”
While these terms are preferred over “addiction” or “alcoholism,” this is by no means an exhaustive list of the types of SUDs a person can have.
5 Myths About Addiction and Recovery
Inaccurate and outdated beliefs around SUD, treatment, and recovery abound, but with curiosity, education, and compassion, we can all deepen our understanding of this complex issue. Let’s look at 5 common myths around SUD and recovery.
Myth 1: Drug Addiction is a Choice or Moral Failing
The belief that simply stopping substance use is a choice for everyone — and that a failure to do so reflects a moral weakness or deviance — is incorrect, outdated, and harmful. We know that SUD is a chronic health condition that can be treated and managed, much like other chronic health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes. Blaming an individual who struggles to discontinue substance use perpetuates stigma and can negatively impact a person’s self-esteem and willingness to seek treatment. A respectful approach that acknowledges SUD as a medical condition that can be managed with treatment and support can help save a life.
Myth 2: You Can’t Get Addicted to Doctor-Prescribed Medication
The perception that prescription drugs are less harmful than illicit drugs can lead to their misuse. When prescribed medications like opioids, central nervous system (CNS) depressants, and stimulants are used without a prescription, or used other than prescribed, it can lead to adverse health effects and dependence. It is crucial to understand the risks of any medications you are prescribed, to monitor your symptoms closely, and to speak to your doctor about any concerns you have as soon as possible.
Myth 3: Your Recovery Journey is Done Once Addiction Treatment is Over
Recovery is a life-long journey. SUD cannot be “cured,” but rather treated and managed. Sustaining long-term recovery may look different for different people. A recovery-oriented lifestyle may include moving to a new environment, changing up your social circle, finding new hobbies, regularly attending groups or meetings within the recovery community, engaging in ongoing counseling, and maintaining medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for as long as needed.
Myth 4: Relapse is a Sign of Failure
Change can be difficult, and encountering setbacks is often part of the process. Experiencing a relapse does not equate to “failure at recovery”. Rather, it is an opportunity to reassess your situation and make the necessary changes that will support long-term recovery. If you experience a relapse, it’s essential to reach out for support from a loved one, a peer in recovery, or a treatment provider as soon as possible. Gaudenzia’s Treatment & Referral HelpLine is available 24/7 at 833.976.HELP (4357).
Myth 5: Addiction Treatment Looks the Same for Everyone
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to addiction treatment. Those seeking treatment for their SUD will want to work with a provider that uses a person-centered, evidence-based treatment model that is trauma-informed, gender-responsive, and culturally responsive. An individual’s treatment plan should address their unique needs. The best suited treatment services may depend on the type and severity of an individual’s SUD, whether they have a co-occurring mental health disorder, and the level of support an individual has available to them outside of treatment.
Addiction Treatment at Gaudenzia
Gaudenzia uses an evidence-based, person-centered treatment model that integrates some of the industry’s most studied and validated therapeutic methods, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing (MI). Our caring, compassionate team provides trauma-informed, gender-responsive, and culturally responsive care.
We provide a wide range of treatment services, including residential treatment (with varying lengths of stay), Intensive Outpatient (IOP) & Outpatient (OP) treatment, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) options, population-specific programming (including programs for women, pregnant women, and women with children), early intervention and prevention services, and more.
If you or someone you love needs help with addiction treatment, please contact our Treatment and Referral HelpLine at 833.976.HELP (4357) or email [email protected] today.
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