5 Common Myths about Addiction

In 2019, 20.4 million Americans struggled with a substance use disorder, but only 1.5% of them received any type of treatment1.  Despite the public focus on the opioid epidemic and addiction recovery in recent years, many people are still not accessing life-saving treatment.  Which leaves us with the question: why?

five common myths about addiction

There are still many misconceptions about substance use disorders, and those who suffer from them, that could keep those in need from reaching out for help. Dispelling common addiction myths is a necessary step in making treatment and recovery more accessible to those struggling with a substance use disorder.  Let’s take a look at five common myths about addiction that can keep someone from getting well. 

1. Recovery from addiction is a matter of willpower.

There is a long-held belief that addiction is a matter of willpower and morality.  If someone wants to get clean bad enough, or if the consequences are severe enough, they can simply make the choice to stop.

The truth is that addiction is a brain disease and willpower alone is not enough to overcome it. As a disease, addiction causes changes in the brain that inhibit the individual’s decision making abilities and slowly erodes their self-control, making the impulse to use very difficult to overcome without appropriate treatment.

2. Recovery is only possible after hitting ‘rock bottom’.

Waiting to seek help until hitting “rock bottom” could have dire consequences.  Substance use disorders are progressive and generally worsen over time, escalating until there is nothing left to lose.  Additionally, “rock bottom” looks different for everyone and it is not a requirement for seeking help.  Recovery can begin at any point in the addiction process.

3. Relapse is a failure and proves treatment is ineffective.

Recovery is a long process that takes time and consistent effort.  There will likely be setbacks, but that doesn’t mean recovery is a lost cause.   Relapse may be a sign that adjustments in treatment approach or other areas of support are necessary. 

4. Holding a steady job, maintaining personal relationships, and/or paying bills are all signs that someone doesn’t have an issue with drugs or alcohol.

The imagery associated with an addict or alcoholic is often a jobless, homeless, or unkempt person whom has frequent run-ins with the legal system and is continuously in and out of institutions.  While this image may describe some addiction stories, it does not account for every story.

The reality is that many people who struggle with a substance use issue are able to uphold their daily responsibilities.  This myth can be particularly dangerous as it makes it more difficult to readily identify problem use and combat denial.

5. Treatment will fix the problem.

Addiction is a chronic disease, which means that it can be controlled but not cured.  Treatment is often the first step in recovery, but long-term recovery will require on-going commitment to a new way of life.  For some people, it may take more than one treatment visit to stabilize on their path to recovery.

Now that these myths have been debunked, don’t wait to get help for you or a loved one.  Recovery can begin at any time and everyone’s journey is different. Greenbriar Treatment Center offers a full continuum of care for individuals over the age of 18.  If you are concerned about yourself or someone you love, reach out today.  


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP20-07-01-001, NSDUH Series H-55). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/