For someone who is battling alcohol abuse, help is always available. Alcohol rehabilitation remains a viable option regardless of what the user believes, but sometimes, misconceptions about alcohol treatment may prevent someone from seeking or sticking with a rehab program. Presented below are five of the most common myths about alcohol rehabilitation, followed by the facts.
Myths About Alcohol Rehabilitation
1. Myth: Alcohol treatment programs do not work.
As the biggest myth about alcohol rehab, this false belief prevents millions of people from finding the right rehabilitation program for their situation. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that each year, roughly 89 percent of teenagers and adults needed treatment for drug or alcohol use but did not receive it.
However, 30 years of scientific research indicates that treatment programs can, indeed, help alcohol users to stop using alcohol, avoid relapses, and successfully restore their lives.
From this research, several keys have emerged for designing and finding the best rehabilitation program for each individual’s unique case:
- No one treatment program is effective for everybody; different people have different situations and needs.
- Effective treatment must address the person’s multi-faceted needs, not just the alcohol abuse.
- Remaining in a treatment program for a sufficient amount of time strongly influences the effectiveness of the program.
- The individual’s treatment plan must be evaluated continually and tweaked as necessary to make sure that it still meets his or her evolving needs.
When considering an alcohol rehab program, the keys are to find a program that offer these characteristics and that are a good match for the individual’s situation. Help is out there, and it does indeed work, as millions of Americans can attest.
2. Myth: No one needs alcohol rehabilitation; people can stop using alcohol if they really want.
This popular myth keeps circulating, preventing some individuals from seeking the help they want or need. Similarly, some well-meaning but misguided loved ones pressure alcohol users to just stop “cold turkey.”
Research has unearthed strong evidence that alcohol abuse is a chronic medical disease that changes the brain’s function and can be treated as successfully as other chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. In essence, part of the brain stops working correctly. Just as a person cannot “will” his diabetes away, an abuser cannot “will” away the craving for alcohol.
The altered brain state caused by prolonged alcohol use creates a strong urge to seek more alcohol despite problems with health, education, job or relationships. Many times, the individual realizes that the alcohol is exerting a negative effect on his or her life but remains powerless to stop consumption. In these cases, an alcohol rehab program can assist by addressing the medical aspects while introducing cognitive behavior education methods; as noted above, treating the various facets of alcohol use in such a manner has proven more successful in helping individuals overcome alcohol’s hold over them.
Adolescents and children who begin using alcohol excessively are especially vulnerable to these changes in the brain due to their young age and growing bodies; finding the right treatment program early can help prevent years of mental, physical and psychological harm.
Regardless of age, anyone can benefit from an alcohol abuse treatment program.
3. Myth: Alcohol rehabilitation is not effective unless the abuser really wants it.
Hardly anyone wants treatment. Sometimes, friends and family will not urge a loved one to seek help unless the individual expresses a strong desire to do so; thus, some folks inadvertently enable the abusive behavior.
People often seek treatment either because a court order demands it or because loved ones strongly urged them to enter an alcohol rehabilitation program. In fact, studies indicate that higher success rates have been found with programs that pressure people to confront and try to overcome their alcohol usage regardless of why they began in the first place; the National institute on Drug Abuse notes that, as proven by research studies, “treatment does not need to be voluntary to be effective.”
While it’s true that alcohol treatment facilities boast varying success rates, this does not suggest that any programs are ineffective. In most cases, the range in reported success levels are due to differences in how various treatment centers measure success and how they treat the person as a whole. Ultimately, what matters most is not what a statistic says about an alcohol rehab center, but rather finding the right treatment program for each individual’s unique needs; locating a good match has a much higher influence on an individual’s likelihood of success than any statistic.
4. Myth: Effective rehabilitation for alcohol abuse should only need one course of treatment. Anyone who continues to abuse alcohol after treatment is hopeless.
When alcohol users and their loved ones follow this misguided belief, they’re holding onto unrealistic expectations. When this lofty ideal is not met, many people may be tempted to give up trying altogether.
Alcohol abuse is a lifelong medical issue that could even be considered a brain disease. While a few individuals can stop alcohol use “cold turkey” or after a single rehab treatment, most people require longer-term treatment and/or repeated treatments. After all, other chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease are not cured after a single four-week treatment plan; neither is alcohol abuse. And people with cancer or hypertension may experience relapses requiring further treatment despite their best efforts; this occurs with alcohol abuse as well.
Studies have shown that to be effective, a short-term inpatient program needs at least 21 days and a residential or outpatient program takes at least 90 days. In addition, longer-term success requires follow-up support and supervision. Regardless of the program type, a longer course of treatment usually correlates with a higher level of success.
5. Myth: People do not voluntarily seek alcohol treatment until after they hit “rock bottom.”
People sometimes consciously permit the abuse to continue, erroneously believing that at some point, the abuser will magically start seeking treatment.
Some people do indeed hit “rock bottom” before seeking treatment, but others remain there without considering alcohol rehab.
In reality, many individuals are motivated to enter and complete alcohol rehabilitation long before they reach “rock bottom.” This motivation may take the form of pressure from family members, friends or employers, or it may simply be a personal recognition that there is a problem that requires treatment. Each person’s journey through overcoming alcohol abuse is different, and most people experience “ups” and “downs” as they progress.
Now that these five myths have been debunked, only the truth remains: alcohol rehabilitation is available for anyone who needs or wants help, and it works. It’s a matter of finding the right program for each person.