Unless you, a loved one or a close friend has ever been through treatment for substance abuse, it is very difficult to know what to expect from a rehab or to know what happens while in treatment. In fact, even if you or a close family member or friend has gone through treatment, the perception of what occurs while in rehab can still be skewed. Because the nature of the mental aspect of addiction makes the client resistant and more often than not combative in regards to the treatment environment, often the reports that people get from a person that has been to treatment are not the most accurate.

Because of this fact, there is much misinformation or confusion surrounding what drug and alcohol treatment is like and what happens while someone is in rehab.

Here are 5 Myths and Misconceptions about Addiction Treatment and Rehab:


  • Treatment Doesn’t Work

Clearly we know this isn’t an accurate statement. This idea has been supported by terrible “success rates” over the years. However, what isn’t being addressed is how we as a society are not treating addiction correctly. Addiction is a chronic, progressive disease and yet we are typically treating it with an acute 28 day model. What addiction needs is long-term treatment. That being said, it is universally agreed upon that not only does treatment work but that the longer someone stays in treatment by engaging with a treatment professional, the better their overall sustainable recovery outcome and success will be.


  • All Treatments are based on the 12 Steps

Again, this is an old idea that is no longer accurate. It is true that for many years the majority of alcohol and drug treatment facilities based their practices and principles on 12 Step recovery fellowships. Many counselors were just AA or NA people with some sobriety time and many groups just focused on 12 Step education. However, that is no longer the case. While some rehabs still are 12 Step-based or offer some form of 12 Step educational groups, the majority of treatment centers are either clinically or medically-driven, focusing on clinical work like DBT or CBT therapy, trauma work and personality disorders.


  • Treatment isn’t affordable 

This simply isn’t true. For those that do not know, the idea of the $30,000 price tag for 30 days of residential treatment rarely is accurate anymore. Although there are some extremely high quality programs that only accept cash payments for treatment services that is certainly not the norm. Most rehabs accept some form of health insurance as payment for some if not all of treatment services. This includes Medicare, Medicaid and private commercial insurance. Many private facilities also offer partial or full scholarships. The truth is, just like any other medical treatment, there is typically going to be some type of out of pocket cost for services but it usually will never be unaffordable and there are resources for those that fall anywhere in terms of financial ability.


  • Rehabs are like spas or a luxury vacations/Treatment is like jail

While many of the inpatient or residential treatment centers are extremely aesthetically pleasing and offer wonderful amenities, there is very little that makes them like a resort or spa. Most treatment centers offer high quality clinical care. Clients are challenged on their behaviors, attitudes and past decision-making. Rehab is emotionally draining and challenging. So while from the outside looking in it may look nice, there is nothing relaxing about treatment. Furthermore, the idea that going to treatment is like jail where you will be locked away for 30 days or end up in a psychiatric hospital like in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” tied up in a straight jacket is just not an accurate portrayal of what rehab is or what occurs there.


  • All I need is detox or at the most 28 days 

This is the typical mindset of anyone that finally agrees to go to rehab. All I need to do is go to detox, get the drugs out of my system and get physically sober. This is definitely true of heroin and other opioid addicts. They don’t need treatment, they just need to get physically clean through a detox. Or if the addict agrees to go to inpatient, they will only agree to 30 days. No long-term care or extended care, even though that is in the best interest of treating the disease of addiction. Detox and inpatient should only be the initial first steps in the continuum of care, not the end all be all of treatment.

As mentioned previously, much of these myths or misconceptions come from a skewed perspective about addiction treatment. That or some are actually factual in nature but only based on partial facts or not a true comprehensive understanding of addiction, treatment and recovery. The nature of addiction, the natural behaviors and reactions of patients and the impact of substance abuse on the reward system of the brain make those in treatment naturally resistant to the treatment process, combative, irritable and manipulative. Very few people that enter treatment walk through the doors ready and willing to listen with an open-mind and engage fully in the beginning stages of a process of recovery. Often patient’s experiences come from only a few days, having been unhappy in rehab and leaving AMA (against medical advice) or ACR (against clinical recommendations.) Additionally, patients attempt to compartmentalize their treatment, refusing to sign releases of information for their families, jobs or outside therapists, legally making it difficult or impossible for the treatment facility to openly communicate with those entities. Therefore, much of the time, the only information families and loved ones are getting is through the skewed perspective of the patient, which does not make for accurate reporting.

Finally, also as mentioned earlier, the standard of care for addiction treatment has become the 28 day inpatient or residential model, which was never a clinically-driven model. Addiction is a chronic, progressive disease that requires long-term comprehensive treatment in order to recover, yet patients are resistant to long-term care based on the nature of the disease and how it affects their decision-making, rational thought processes and behaviors. This makes for an environment where relapse is not only possible but often probable. Treating addiction with a model we know to not be the most effective has been and will continue to be disastrous. Furthermore, it will impact the way that patients, families and loved ones view rehab and perpetuates stigma and misconceptions about substance abuse treatment. What should be happening is, just like with heart disease, cancer and diabetes, from the time a patient or family seeks treatment and makes contact with an addiction treatment professional, a treatment plan of action should be constructed and both patient and family should know what the next year of the patient’s life looks like in terms of a recovery-oriented system of care. This means how the patient will receive comprehensive long-term treatment that will transition them through different levels of care and address all aspects of their life in terms of the impact of addiction and a process of recovery. This includes not just the drug or alcohol abuse but also the underlying causes and conditions of the addiction, any mental health or dual diagnosis issues, possible trauma, relationships, life skills, education and vocational skills or career.

Treatment works and addicts and alcoholics do recover. However, in order to do so they need to receive the most effective treatment possible. This also means that in order to break much of the stigma surrounding treatment and overcome many of the myths and misconceptions that people have about drug and alcohol rehab, we must make sure that those in need are offered the most effective treatment available. That includes making sure to engage families throughout the treatment process and openly communicate with important organizations like employers or EAPs, outside providers like therapists, psychiatrists and primary care physicians or entities like the criminal justice system.

If you or someone you know is in need of help because of drug and/or alcohol abuse or addiction, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis substance abuse treatment in the Baltimore, Maryland, Washington, DC and Virginia area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at Contact us today. For more information on all of our drug addiction and alcohol addiction services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com.

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