It’s estimated that around 21.6 million people have a substance abuse disorder. Out of those millions, little more than 10% ever receive treatment. There are plenty of reasons why people don’t go to rehab to get the help they need and many of them center around practical issues: cost, scheduling conflicts, lack of childcare, transportation, and other logistical hurdles. But for others, it’s not a matter of can’t, but won’t

Some of the reasons for this reluctance were cited as being due to a negative perception of what treatment would be like or because of social stigma about going to rehab in general. Considering the time-sensitive nature of addiction, these misconceptions can be deadly. That’s why in this article, we’re highlighting some of the most common myths about drug & alcohol rehab and setting the record straight once and for all.

Myth #1: Rehab is for those who’ve hit “rock bottom”

A common myth perpetuated in drug use culture is that only those who’ve hit “rock bottom” need or ever go to treatment. What this might look like is different for everyone. For some, it could be when they face legal consequences such as having their license revoked or ending up in jail. For others, it could be when their drug habit interferes with daily life, like being fired from their job, shunned by loved ones, or facing drug-related health complications. 

Regardless of what someone’s low point might be, addiction is a progressive disease that quickly gets worse the longer it goes unchecked. Waiting until a substance use disorder has become severe is a bad idea (and may come about much sooner than you think). Aside from the physical ramifications, prolonged drug use can have drastic effects on a person’s mental health, resulting in depression, anxiety, or other serious mental illness as well as deteriorating cognitive and reasoning ability. This can make it a lot less likely that an addicted person would seek treatment even when they do hit their “rock bottom”.

Myth #2: Relapse = failure

Relapse, or namely, relapse prevention is a hot topic in the addiction treatment community. A prevalent area of focus for the average personThisduring and after treatment has contributed to a common misconception that relapsing means rehab didn’t work or that a person has failed. Relapse is a very common and natural occurrence. Several biological factors contribute to relapse, several of which are outside of a person’s direct control.

Relapsing is not an indicator that someone didn’t want it enough, or that they didn’t try hard enough. It is a normal part of the recovery cycle and something that can occur with other types of disorders. Would you say someone whose asthma relapsed just didn’t want to breathe badly enough? Of course not. The same goes for addiction treatment. The relapse rate for substance abuse disorders is between 40-60%. This is comparable to the relapse rates of other chronic diseases such as asthma and hypertension, which have rates between 50-70%.

If you end up relapsing, it could just signal that you may need a modified treatment approach. A relapse is an opportunity to learn and grow. Consider why you relapsed and use this as a guide for your recovery journey.

Myth #3: Drug & alcohol rehab is the only way to treat addiction 

Addiction certainly isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation, and neither is addiction treatment. Traditional drug rehabilitation involved a person staying onsite at an addiction treatment facility, where they would undergo medical detox and behavioral counseling. Nowadays, there are several treatment options that can better accommodate time constraints, addiction severity, and preferred communication styles. There are medically-assisted treatments like that of Suboxone clinics (many of which are outpatient). There are also peer-based options such as 12 step-based recovery groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. 

Myth #4: You’ll lose your job/Your employers will find out

Drug addiction is classified as a disability. As such, there are several protections afforded to these individuals by several types of legislation. The most widely encompassing is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This act makes it unlawful to discriminate against addicted persons during and after recovery and a chargeable offense through the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Another legal protection for employees struggling with addiction is known as the Family and Medical Leave Act. This legislation allows eligible employees to take 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave due to specified family or medical reasons (such as addiction treatment) within 12 months and is known as an FMLA leave of absence. If you’re worried about word getting around and becoming the subject of water-cooler gossip, you’re also covered. By law, your employer is required to keep any information about your addiction or treatment strictly confidential. 

Myth #5: I can’t afford it

The cost of rehab is one of the biggest deterrents to people seeking the help they need. Inpatient treatment, where the person stays on-site at a facility, can quickly add up to be tens and thousands of dollars. Even fully outpatient treatment can be costly, however, costing several thousand dollars. For the average person, even the penny and would take a serious chunk out of their nest egg. Fortunately, there’s help.

Most private health insurance plans can cover at least the partial cost of substance abuse treatment, if not all of it. Addiction’s classification as a disease has allowed it to be a common benefit of many healthcare plans. If you’re not intimately familiar with the details of your coverage, trying to figure out whether insurance will pay for rehab can be tricky. Most rehab centers are well-versed in these matters and often employ personnel that specializes in navigating insurance verification. 

And if you don’t have insurance? Not to worry. State-funded drug and alcohol rehab centers offer a much more affordable way to obtain treatment. The caveat, however, is that the low cost means there are always a lot of people waiting to get in. This can mean long wait times on rehab admission lists which may not always be feasible for a person struggling with addiction. Another option is that some workplaces will actually pay for an employee to go to rehab. 

The Truth About Drug & Alcohol Rehab

Dispelling myths about drug and alcohol rehab isn’t just a necessity to correct false information. It highlights that there’s still a long way to go when it comes to knowledge and understanding about addiction and addiction treatment. Misunderstandings or simply a lack of knowledge about rehab has the potential to cost people their lives as addiction is a race against the clock. 

Although it can be easy to find a million reasons not to go to rehab, going can quite literally mean the difference between life and death. The short-term sacrifice or inconvenience in your day-to-day life will all seem worth it once you’ve made it to the other side. Don’t let fear of the unknown or a fear change stop you from making a decision that will affect the rest of your life.