Andy Dick, the troubled comedian, has had his share of problems when it comes to the dependence on alcohol and drugs. Recently, his concerned friends attempted to get him help, trying something of an intervention in order to try to make him accept treatment for his problems. However, it was not long until Andy Dick checked himself out of the very program he agreed to attend. This news immediately brought out countless comments across forums on the Internet. While we know that some people in this field have a different idea of what constitutes addiction, some of these comments were uninformed and went against countless scientific studies.
For us, this was the perfect time to address some of the most common misconceptions about those people struggling with dependence. By bringing these myths and misconceptions out into the open, it allows us to address them and give people a better understanding of what addiction is and is not.
Myth: Drug addiction is a character flaw
We saw this comment quite often, perhaps it is because Andy Dick is a polarizing, controversial figure, and perhaps it is because some people have no genuine understanding of what drug addiction does to someone. Different types of illicit substances alter how the brain functions. While the effects may be different for different illicit substances, it can affect motor skills such as walking and talking, changes in memory processes, to mood changes, or changes in the cells and molecules that make up the brain.
Ultimately, drugs and/or alcohol become the most powerful motivator in that person’s life. The person’s way of functioning is altered in critical ways. This is not because the person is ‘weak’ or ‘morally flawed’. It has a physical component and underlying emotional component that counselors need to address in order to make a change.
Myth: It is a voluntary behavior
It is true that the majority of recreational users start using drugs or alcohol because they make an active, voluntary decision, However, the change from a voluntary user to a compulsive user is gradual and most users are not aware of the problem in time or are simply unable to stop it. This leads to compulsive and even uncontrollable dependence on illicit substances.
Myth: You cannot force someone into treatment
Chances are that the friends of Andy Dick realize that this is a falsehood. There is no immediate difference between those who enter treatment voluntarily and those coerced into treatment by the legal system. Once a person enters into drug recovery, what they do there is what matters. Clearly in the case of Andy Dick, he was not willing to stay there and refused to seek help. A program can be successful, even if the patient is involuntarily admitted. However, at some point, the person struggling with dependence has to want to make the change.
Myth: Everyone needs the same standard treatment program
A few vocal proponents online believe that the reason Andy Dick has not found success thus far is that he has not found ‘the right program’. According to these advocates, there is one program that works for everyone. However, this goes against the research done on the subject. We know that we have to address the individual’s problems and can only do so after a thorough assessment. Only after completing those steps can recovery professionals develop an individual treatment plan that addresses that patient’s specific needs.
Help may include behavioral therapy (cognitive therapy or counseling), biophysical detoxification, or a combination of the two. It is also important to get to the underlying factors of the addiction. Why is the person resorting to using illicit substances or drinking alcohol in excess? Once you can get to the underlying problems, it increases the odds of the patient maintaining long-term sobriety.
Myth: You just need to get him through a program for a few weeks
We saw several people suggest that if Andy Dick were truly motivated (which he clearly was not in the first place) a mere few weeks in a drug abuse treatment facility would make sure that his problems were behind him. The truth is that Andy Dick has had documented problems with substance abuse since 1999. This makes him dependent on alcohol and/or drugs for at least 14 years. A few weeks is not going to undo the underlying issues that have plagued this man for more than a decade. To assume otherwise not only goes against scientific research, but logic as well.
Studies show that for residential treatment, a minimum of 90 days is the very least that a patient needs in order to expect some sort of success. However, in order to maintain sobriety, it is a good idea to have aftercare programs in place that allow someone to seek help after he or she has left the rehab facility. Making it through the recovery program is only the first step when it comes to life-long sobriety.
Myth: Those who relapse are hopeless
As mentioned earlier, there is no one particular program that works for everyone. It is important to customize the program in such a way that it reflects the patient’s needs. Perhaps the program was not the right one for the patient, or perhaps the patient in recovery was not ready to make long-term changes in his or her life. Regardless of what the reason is, a relapse is a real possibility. If that happens, it does not mean that this patient is ‘beyond repair’ or that they are a lifelong addict, it simply means that this was a stage in his or her recovery process that did not go as planned. A solid program that bases itself on research will take the information and try to narrow down the specific treatment method for the patient, to see where it can improve in the future.
While there are some who might say, “Do not read too much into Internet comments,” the truth is that these comments suggest that many people in our country still carry around misconceptions regarding drug or alcohol addiction. By slowly eradicating these misconceptions and providing knowledge where possible, we hope that it may help someone who is struggling with a dependency.