One thing we often hear about so-called addicts and alcoholics is that we have to wait for them to hit “rock bottom” before helping them seek treatment. This line of thinking is not just applied to people with substance use disorder (SUD) either. This is an idea that is unfortunately to other serious psychiatric issues.
The theory goes that it’s only after a person has hit rock bottom that they will seriously work on their recovery. Make them go to rehab any sooner than that, and they won’t commit because they don’t yet see a problem with their substance misuse.
While this idea was popular for a long time, today it’s understood that waiting for the worst to happen to someone before urging them to seek treatment is a bad idea. It’s especially problematic for people with SUD for several reasons, which we will explore below.
Before we get into that though, let’s take a look at what people understand to be “rock bottom”. If you need help with a drug or alcohol use disorder, don’t wait for the worst to happen. Call us at Dallas Drug Treatment Centers for a listing of drug rehabs in Dallas and beyond.
While they did not originate the phrase, “hitting rock bottom” was popularized by the group Alcoholics Anonymous. From its usage in the group, the idiom became widely understood by the general public to mean when a person has reached their lowest possible point and can go no lower.
Rock bottom can differ from person to person. For some people, it can mean getting caught stealing money from a child or parent. For others, it can mean an overdose or a stint in jail. This essentially means that rock bottom can be any situation where the affected individual finds that they can no longer tolerate their current way of life.
While the idea used to be popular, it has become much less so in recent decades. Here’s why most drug and alcohol treatment professionals no longer tell you to wait for rock bottom before seeking help:
1.) It’s not supported by science
There are no widely accepted studies supporting the idea that individuals with drug or alcohol problems need to hit rock bottom before entering a treatment program. Rock bottom is also very difficult to define and almost infinitely subjective, making it challenging to study.
What we do know is that substance use disorder tends to be much easier to treat in the early stages and better outcomes are more common with early treatment. Early treatment also results in fewer medical complications, lower healthcare costs, and a much-reduced chance of needing residential rehabilitation. This flies in the face of the idea of waiting for rock bottom.
2.) It takes longer for privileged people to hit rock bottom
One often-cited issue is that the trip to “rock bottom” looks very different for privileged people. There are people out there who can afford to sustain a daily drug habit for decades without a serious consequence to their professional or social life.
This means a rich or well-connected person may never be affected in the same way someone poorer or less-connected would. If a poor or middle-income person attempted to indulge in the same way someone wealthy did, they may hit rock bottom much sooner and suffer fewer consequences in the meantime. On the flip side, this also means it’s easier for a person with more money to keep indulging well past the point that their illness is more easily treated.
3.) Hitting rock bottom doesn’t always mean you’re ready to recover
As we mentioned in our previous point, hitting rock bottom might just mean that you’ve run out of steam or you’re not lucky enough to afford both a normal life and a drug problem at the same time. This means that people who reach that point are not necessarily convinced that they need to change.
4.) Relapses can still happen after rock bottom
A potentially dangerous part of the rock bottom myth is the idea that it is the end of the line, which implies a relapse can’t happen. Anyone who’s worked in a rehab center will tell you that this simply isn’t true.
Based on what we know about substance use disorder, there is a strong physiological component to it that completely disregards whatever the individual feels about their recovery.
Physical withdrawal symptoms can be excruciating and unimaginably painful. Many relapses are a direct result of recovering individuals being unable to cope or survive withdrawal. These have nothing to do with whether or not anyone has hit a low point in their lives.
Don’t wait for rock bottom. Drug and alcohol use disorders need to be treated as soon as they are identified. This will not only reduce other potential health risks, but it will also prevent the patient from experiencing unnecessary psychological and financial burdens.
If you suspect that you or a loved one have a substance use disorder, get in touch with a qualified psychiatrist immediately for a full assessment. Our team at Dallas Drug Treatment Centers is ready to help you find the right rehab programs in Dallas that suit your needs. Good luck, and be well!