Addressing Myths About Substance Use, Addiction, Treatment and Recovery


How did you learn about substance use, addiction, treatment and recovery? What are the sources of information that shaped your views? This workshop will discuss how news, entertainment, and social media, as well as personal experience, influence how people understand substance use disorders and different pathways to recovery. It will also address common beliefs like, “You have to hit rock bottom” and “Recovery is rare,” and explain how attitudes, practices, and data collection have evolved. Information from the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health and other sources will be presented, including prevalence of illicit substance use, substance use disorders, and co-occurring mental health challenges.


Encourage participants to examine the sources of their attitudes and beliefs about substance use, addiction, treatment and recovery, reconsider any misperceptions, and expand their understanding of these topics by presenting current research and statistics.

Workshop Outline:

  • Discuss where participants learned about addiction, treatment and recovery (personal experience, news and entertainment media, etc.).
  • Highlight themes that often appear in films, TV shows, books, music, and social media, including overview of research findings.
  • Discuss critiques of media coverage of these topics.
  • Address common beliefs and whether they’re supported by evidence (hitting rock bottom, enabling and co-dependency, tough love).
  • Discuss how personal experience influences attitudes and beliefs.
  • Present graphics illustrating types of substance use (experimental, social, risky, etc.).
  • Discuss different reasons people use drugs, and how that varies for different substances over time.
  • Present substance use and mental health statistics, using sources such as the 2022 NSDUH.
  • Discuss criteria for diagnosing a substance use disorder (mild, moderate or severe).

Trainer Bio:

Susan Stellin, MPH is a writer, educator, and public health consultant focusing on health-centered responses to substance use and addiction. Since earning a master's in public health at Columbia University, she has worked on projects about ways to reduce overdose deaths, reform punitive drug policies, and expand access to harm reduction, treatment, and recovery support. Recent clients include NYU Langone’s Health x Housing Lab, the Northeast & Caribbean Addiction Technology Transfer Center, the Opioid Response Network, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Overdose Prevention Program at Vital Strategies, and the Vera Institute of Justice. She regularly leads training workshops for service providers working with people experiencing substance use, mental health, and housing challenges, and has also taught undergraduate courses about media ethics, collaborative storytelling, and the history of journalism.

Session Recording:

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