The Myth of Waiting for Rock Bottom



Signs and Symptoms


Because substance use disorder is a progressive disease, intervening in the early stages greatly improves outcomes. Families should take warning signs seriously.[1] Concerned significant others may report these signs and symptoms:


  • Their loved one starts behaving differently for no apparent reason — such as acting withdrawn, frequently tired or depressed, or hostile

  • Disinterest in activities that were previously enjoyable

  • Loss of money, missing valuables, and borrowing

  • Change in daily routine

  • Loss of interest in overall health, hygiene, preventative and dental care

  • Changes in mood

  • Change in weight or appearance

  • Change in sexual behavior

  • Change in weight, eating or sleeping habits

  • A decline in performance at work or school

  • Change in peer group

  • Secrecy regarding phone

  • A tendency to disappear for hours at a time

  • Deteriorating relationships

  • Inability to be present when in conversation


Family Involvement is Key


Research shows that family engagement in treatment and recovery services is increasingly associated with decreased rates of relapse, promotions in health and wellbeing, abstinence, and improved treatment engagement.[2]


Intervening early prevents the substance use disorder from escalating and becoming an addiction. Unfortunately, we often wait until the problem is severe for identification and treatment. By setting up systems to identify people who are struggling with substance use problems and intervening before their problems escalate, we can intervene and connect individuals with services quickly before significant health and personal consequences occur.



Myth of Waiting for Rock Bottom


Substance use disorders get worse over time. The earlier treatment starts the better the chances for long-term recovery. Many families are wrongly told to “wait for rock bottom” and that their loved one needs to feel ready to seek treatment in order for it to work. The idea that we should wait for the disease to get worse before seeking treatment is dangerous. Imagine if we waited until stage 4 to treat cancer.


Belief in this “rock bottom” can keep people who are struggling from reaching out for help. It can also keep family, friends, and care providers from addressing the issue because they have been incorrectly told that the disease has to “run its course” and that they should practice “tough love” until a person hits bottom.


You shouldn’t wait for the worst to happen before seeking treatment or helping a loved one, even if they don’t feel “ready.” Often the “moment” that helps someone get help can simply be a conversation, a letter, or a series of conversations.


Decades of research has proven that the earlier someone is treated, the better their outcomes—and that treatment works just as well for patients who are compelled to start treatment by outside forces as it does for those who are self-motivated to enter treatment.



An excerpt from Navigating Addiction and Treatment: A Guide for Families, Addiction Policy Forum, 2020.




A Note From Addiction Policy Forum


Substance use disorders get worse over time. The earlier treatment starts the better the chances for long-term recovery. Many families are wrongly told to “wait for rock bottom” and that their loved one needs to feel ready to seek treatment in order for it to work. The idea that we should wait for the disease to get worse before seeking treatment is dangerous. Imagine if we waited until stage 4 to treat cancer. Decades of research has proven that the earlier someone is treated, the better their outcomes—and that treatment works just as well for patients who are compelled to start treatment by outside forces as it does for those who are self-motivated to enter treatment.


Help is Here


If you have questions or need to speak with someone for support, call or text (833) 301-4357 today. Our staff of trained counselors at Addiction Policy Forum provides free, confidential support to anyone in need of help with a Substance Use Disorder issue, including patients, families and healthcare providers.




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References:


1) National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). Treatment. Retrieved from www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/preface


2) Daley, D. C. (2013). Family and social aspects of substance use disorders and treatment. Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, 21(4), S73-S76. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfda.2013.09.038

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