7 Damaging Myths About Rehab and Recovery


While the world has come a long way in destigmatizing mental health and addiction, there’s still a long way to go. Despite the progress we’ve made as a society, the media and widespread misconceptions about addiction and recovery continue to perpetuate damaging myths that deter people from seeking treatment. 

If you or someone you love is battling addiction, dispelling these myths is crucial. Here are seven damaging myths about rehab and recovery that should be left in the past.

All Rehab Programs Are the Same

The Hollywood depiction of rehabilitation centers and programs tends to fall into one of two categories. In some cases, the rehab center is shown as a ramshackle building with a shady cast of characters. In others, rehab looks like a luxury resort that caters to the wealthy. We watch people engaging in ineffective group sessions until they inevitably have an epiphany that sets the tone for the rest of the story.

The problem with these representations is that they perpetuate the myth that all rehabilitation programs are the same. However, there are many different treatment options with a diverse array of approaches and plans, for people from all backgrounds and experiences. There are options for everything from couples rehab to outpatient counseling to more immersive inpatient experiences. Some programs use a step-based program, while others dive deep into psychology and trauma.

The key thing to remember when evaluating rehabilitation programs is that the options are endless. These programs rarely operate as they’re depicted in the media.

Relapsing Means Rehab Failed

Another myth that needs to be dispelled is that relapsing is synonymous with failure. There’s a learning curve with rehabilitation and recovery. Going to rehab and experiencing a relapse doesn’t negate the value of going back. If the person can learn something new every time and make progress, the experience has value.

This myth also ties into the idea that someone must hit “rock bottom” in order for rehab to be effective. That term is largely subjective, and this myth can also be incredibly damaging. People who feel as though they haven’t hit rock bottom may not seek treatment before their lives are dramatically altered. 

Rehab and recovery is a process, and like many things in life, progress isn’t linear.

Treatment Will Cure an Addiction

Another harmful myth that impacts the loved ones of the person with substance abuse issues is that addiction treatment offers a cure. The logic behind this myth is that if there’s no cure, what’s the point of treatment? However, the logic is flawed — you wouldn’t ask that question of a loved one battling cancer, for example.

The reality is that there is no cure for addiction. It’s an ongoing, life-long process of recovery and working through the issues that fuel the addiction. In this way, the experience is similar to many other mental health disorders. Someone facing bipolar disorder will never find a cure; instead, they seek treatment and learn to manage their disorder throughout their lives.

Rehab Is Too Expensive

Another media-based myth about treatment is that it’s too expensive to pursue. Yes, rehabilitation programs can be costly. However, there are often options to offset or cover those costs.

Many rehabilitation programs are covered by health insurance. With some research, you can determine if your plan covers the program you are interested in. If not, there are usually affordable Health Insurance Marketplace options that can help offset the costs.

The type of program will also have an impact on the cost. If you’re going to an inpatient treatment facility, it will cost more than a self-led outpatient counseling program. There are also government-subsided options to consider.

Rehab and Detox Are the Same

When people envision going to rehab, they imagine the dreadful detox period where they’re cut off from their family and must quit their substance cold turkey. While there are detox program options and offerings, they’re not the nightmare that Hollywood movies perpetuate. In many cases, the detox process is managed with medication and support. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but not as scary as it’s made out to be.

There are also numerous programs that don’t incorporate the detoxification process. Your rehabilitation might include counseling and community building, rather than a strict inpatient detox experience.

Rehab Replaces One Addiction for Another

This common myth about recovery is partially rooted in truth. There are some dated recovery programs that fixate on a focused solution, be it religion or otherwise. However, there are other more modern treatment options that create a healthy focus on the road ahead while taking a multifaceted approach.

There’s also a misconception surrounding medication-assisted addiction treatment. People feel that taking one substance instead of another isn’t really a solution. However, this approach can help safely wean the person off their dangerous substance with a medically safe alternative. The idea is to ease the transition, not replace one substance with another.

Rehab Will Cost You Your Job

Finally, another huge concern for people is the potential for unemployment if they seek treatment. Many employers offer support through the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Additionally, your job may be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Rehabilitation Act.

Take some time to review your company policies to better understand your options. Again, there are outpatient programs designed to help people with families or job responsibilities seek help with minimal disruption to their routines.

The better we understand the truth about recovery and rehabilitation, the better we’ll be able to help our loved ones and ourselves.

About the Author

Medical Disclaimer

The information provided on this website is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. The content on the website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, treatment, or advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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