Unless you or a loved one has been through addiction treatment, the whole process is likely a bit of a mystery. Unfortunately, several misconceptions exist within this information void, some of which can discourage or prevent people from seeking the help they need. For example, some people believe that only severe substance use issues need treatment, when in fact recovery success rates are positively correlated with early intervention.

To help fill that information void, the following content offers some of the most common myths about addiction treatment and factual insights that dispel them. But in light of these misconceptions and given the importance of early intervention, it’s important to reach out for help as soon as possible. Immersion Recovery Center offers the full spectrum of addiction treatment in Delray Beach, FL, from residential inpatient to outpatient programs and aftercare. Contact us to not only learn more about addiction-treatment myths — and realities — but also to better understand the essential aspects of addiction and how you or a loved one can take the first steps toward recovery today.

Misconception: Addiction Treatment Is Only for Severe Cases

The National Institutes of Health asserts that substance use disorders range in severity and complexity anywhere from mild to severe. Some people erroneously believe that only those with the most severe levels of addiction need to enter treatment. However, according to Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, “the most effective way to help someone with a substance use problem who may be at risk for developing a substance use disorder is to intervene early, before the condition can progress.”(1)

Importance of Early Intervention & Prevention

Many people exhibit milder substance use issues, such as binge drinking on occasion. (Binge drinking is defined as having consumed at least four or five drinks, for women or men respectively, at least one time in the past 30 days.) While binge drinking does not always lead to long-term addiction, it is a significant risk factor. Those who find themselves consuming too much alcohol on a regular basis may be candidates for substance use disorder treatment and intervention before their habits worsen.

Prescription drug use can also be a risk factor for chronic substance misuse, particularly when it’s associated with potentially addictive medications, such as opioids, benzodiazepines, and amphetamines. In addition, experimentation with illicit drugs, including marijuana and hallucinogens, can serve as “gateways” to the use of harder drugs and alcohol.

While many signs can suggest an individual is vulnerable to addiction, the first is often that substance use has become problematic and is interfering with one’s life, health, and relationships. As soon as these signs appear, early intervention is beneficial, as the sooner treatment is sought, the better the outcome may be.

Benefits of Early Intervention Include:

  • Early identification of problematic use patterns, which can lead to effective interventions before full-blown addiction has developed.
  • Individualized treatment, as understanding the disorder’s severity helps professionals tailor treatment plans to each person’s needs.
  • Relapse prevention, as those who experience severe addiction likely require more intensive support and/or a longer duration to maintain recovery.
  • Stigma reduction, as an understanding that addiction exists on a spectrum, helps to dispel the idea that only those with extreme “rock bottom” conditions need help.

Understanding the Spectrum of Addiction Severity

It’s important to understand that addiction involves many degrees of severity, from problematic use to physical and mental dependence. 

Factors That Can Help Evaluate Addiction Severity & Complexity:

  • Frequency and duration of use and average quantity consumed
  • Frequency and intensity of cravings and withdrawal symptoms
  • Extent of negative impacts on health, relationships, career, school, etc.
  • Level of difficulty controlling use, even in the face of adverse consequences

The DSM-5, a tool used by behavioral health professionals to assess substance use disorders, outlines the 11 criteria needed to provide a diagnosis.(2) Severity can be classified as:

  • Mild (presence of 2–3 criteria)
  • Model (presence of 4–5 criteria)
  • Severe (presence of 6 or more criteria)

For clinicians to effectively address addiction, they must understand the severity, symptoms, and nuances of a person’s substance use disorder. A thorough evaluation is essential for determining which level of care is most appropriate for the individual. To learn more about our comprehensive assessments and personalized treatment plans, reach out to Immersion Recovery Center today.

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Misconception: Addiction Treatment Is a One-Size-Fits-All Solution

When people think about addiction treatment, a typical rehab model often comes to mind. The media, especially movies and music, perpetuates certain (often negative) stereotypes of what rehab is like. In particular, the personalized nature of treatment programs is usually neglected. However, most real-life professionals understand that addiction is best treated from a holistic perspective that’s carefully tailored to the individual.

Matching Treatment to the Individual’s Needs and Preferences 

To ensure patients receive the care that’s best suited to their needs and preferences, treatment professionals assess a host of factors.

Critical Factors Involved in Treatment Planning Include:

  • Individual Differences — Those struggling with substance use have unique circumstances, including underlying causes, triggers, and areas in which they excel or need extra attention.
  • Substances of Misuse — Each type of substance affects the brain and body differently, therefore necessitating specialized detox and treatment approaches.
  • Appropriate Treatment Models — Treatment options include a variety of therapies, medication-assisted treatment, and levels of care (e.g., inpatient vs. outpatient treatment). The goal is to determine which approaches are most suitable for the individual.
  • Specific Characteristics — Characteristics such as gender, age, ethnicity, cultural background, personal or family history of substance use or mental health disorders, and more can all impact addiction treatment.
  • Level of Support — Some individuals have strong support systems consisting of friends and family. Others need additional support, such as peer recovery groups and mentors.

Individualized Treatment Planning & Tailored Approaches

The treatment-matching process includes an in-depth assessment in which a qualified professional gathers vital information, such as family background, personal and family history of addiction and mental health, and more. The assessment also pinpoints specific areas to address and how they will be approached. Based on an individual’s unique needs and situation, various levels of care and therapies are implemented. 

Levels of Care Include:

  • Detox — Clinical services that monitor and address withdrawal symptoms while substances are cleared from the individual’s body
  • Inpatient/Residential — Offers a structured, 24/7, home-like environment for those with moderate to severe addiction
  • Intensive Outpatient and Standard Outpatient — Flexible options for those with less severe addictions, strong support networks, or outside obligations such as work or family

Therapy and Medication Options Include:

  • Individual Therapy — One-on-one sessions with a qualified professional that address behavioral issues and the thoughts and feelings that drive them
  • Group Therapy — Includes peer support, activities, and skill-building
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) — When appropriate, combines medications with therapy and other treatment options

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Misconception: Addiction Treatment Is a Quick Fix

Many people are under the impression that a few weeks or months in rehab is all they need to return to their normal lives, drug-free. It’s vital to realize, however, that long-term therapy, support, and treatment-plan adjustments are needed to address emerging concerns and sustain motivation long term.

Understanding the Chronic Nature of Addiction

Not unlike diabetes or asthma, addiction is a chronic disorder that can’t be completely cured, only managed. There are several reasons for this, but permanent brain changes are typically among the major culprits.(3)

Moreover, even after an individual stops using substances, the brain remains rewired and vulnerable to relapse. This is why a person can get sober for years, but a simple slip due to overconfidence or stress can lead them right back down the path to active addiction. Still, addiction can be managed, and individuals can enjoy a healthy, substance-free life.

Long-Term Recovery & Support

Various forms of support can aid in managing this chronic condition long-term. 

Crucial Forms of Support for Long-Term Recovery Include:

  • Engagement in 12-step meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, or other alternative recovery groups, such as SMART Recovery
  • Participation in ongoing therapy, such as individual counseling and group or family therapy
  • Adherence to medication-assisted treatment (if applicable) combined with therapy to manage cravings and prevent relapse
  • Sober living environments or structured housing, which provides a community environment that offers accountability and support during the transition to independent living
  • Support from family and friends who encourage sobriety and the formation of new friendships with others in recovery.

Misconception: Relapse Means Treatment Has Failed

For many people, relapse is a sign of failure, suggesting that treatment and/or the individual somehow failed. In reality, however, given the chronic nature of addiction, relapse is often part of the treatment and recovery process, as it can provide valuable insight and fuel ongoing progress.

Relapse as a Common Component of Recovery

According to relapse-related insights from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), recovery is a process, and relapse is often part of this process.(4)   In fact, an estimated 40–60% of people with addiction will experience a relapse.(5) 

SAMHSA also explains that patients regularly cycle through different stages of recovery, including relapse, before they achieve long-term recovery. So a recurrence of substance use is a normal part of the process. In fact, like any setback, a relapse can offer valuable insights that can help people develop new skills and knowledge that can ultimately help them better cope with their disorder in the future.(4) 

Learning from Relapse & Adjusting Treatment Strategies

Changing behaviors takes time, the recovery process is complex, and every person’s path will be unique. Plus, being sober does not mean life’s problems and stressors will just go away. The key to preventing relapse is to learn from any setbacks and to readjust treatment strategies and behaviors.

Learning Opportunities From Relapse Include:

  • Trigger Identification — Relapse allows individuals to examine factors that led to the setback and to then identify and implement better coping mechanisms in the future.
  • Treatment Plan Adjustments — Given the chronic nature of addiction, a relapse offers an opportunity to reflect on and reevaluate the current treatment plan and to identify areas for improvements or other means of addiction support.
  • Double-Down on Commitment — A relapse can reemphasize the importance of recovery and bolster motivation for further effort.

Remember that relapse does not invalidate treatment. Rather, relapse serves as a crucial opportunity for learning and growth.

Misconception: Once in Treatment, You Can’t Have a Normal Life

If “normal” life includes misusing substances, then no, life in recovery won’t be normal. However, treatment will help you define a new normal that’s physically and emotionally healthier, and, most would argue, much happier than a life overshadowed by addiction.

Empowering Individuals to Lead Fulfilling Lives in Recovery

Life in recovery is different for everyone. However, it’s important to reframe your idea of everyday life. In recovery, this new normal typically includes:

  • Breaking free from active addiction and not being consumed by cravings and urges
  • Establishing healthy habits regarding nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress management
  • Rebuilding trust, reconnecting with family, and forging new, sober relationships
  • Finding or re-establishing enjoyable hobbies, passions, or career endeavors
  • Developing effective coping skills to deal with challenges without resorting to substance use

Recovery should be an overall positive experience, and those who are motivated can use the skills they’ve honed to deal with the stressful ups and downs of life. The overarching goal is to create a “normal” life that’s healthier and more fulfilling than it was before.

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Addiction is a personal and unique issue, and no one model of treatment is right for everyone. And while effective treatment plans are tailored to meet each individual’s needs, there is no quick fix. But by helping you to address co-occurring disorders, identify the underlying causes that lead to addiction, and develop relapse prevention strategies, professionals at Immersion Recovery Center can help you understand your personal relationship with addiction and can equip you with the tools needed to flourish in recovery.

Contact Immersion Recovery Center today for a no-obligation health insurance benefits check and learn more about our streamlined admissions process. Reach out to take your first steps toward health, wellness, and the fulfilling life you deserve.

  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK424859.
  2. McNeely J, Adam A. Substance Use Screening and Risk Assessment in Adults. Johns Hopkins University; 2020 Oct. Table 3, DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria for Diagnosing and Classifying Substance Use Disorders. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK565474/table/nycgsubuse.tab9/#.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. Available from: https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drugs-brain.
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Enhancing Motivation for Change in Substance Use Disorder Treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol TIP 35. Available from: https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/tip-35-pep19-02-01-003.pdf.
  5. The Guardian. Why do so many drug and alcohol addicts relapse? The answers are complex. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/dec/11/connection-and-support-are-key-for-serial-relapsers-to-break-the-addiction-cycle.

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Susan-Shirley

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Serving as the Inpatient Clinical Director at Immersion Recovery Center, Susan will work directly with staff members, clients, and family members to ensure the clinical program remains as effective and individualized as possible. Susan is no stranger to the fields of behavioral health and addiction. She has over 25 years of experience, working in an inpatient setting, an outpatient setting, acute stabilization and nearly all other settings in the realm of addiction recovery.