Why Don’t People Seek Help for Addiction?

Why Don’t People Seek Help for Addiction?

Each year, only about 10 percent of Americans who need treatment for a substance use disorder actually get it. That translates into about 18 million Americans each year who don’t get the help they need. Right now, help for addiction is more effective, more widely available, and more affordable than it has ever been. And yet, only a small minority of people are seeking help even as the death rate from drug overdose continues to rise. Why don’t more people seek help for addiction?

They don’t believe they need treatment.

According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the vast majority of people–96 percent–who have a substance use disorder but don’t seek help simply don’t believe they need treatment. This may mean a number of different things. Some of them, perhaps, really don’t need help. Others may believe they should quit or reduce their use of drugs and alcohol but they believe they can do it on their own. Most don’t believe or won’t admit they have a problem. Many people deny their substance use is a problem even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Admitting you have a problem means you have to change something and many people can’t even imagine life without drugs or alcohol. When you don’t want to change, your brain can invent compelling reasons why you don’t have to.

They weren’t ready to stop drinking or using.

Of the just over four percent of people who thought they did need help, 2.6 percent made no attempt to get it. Of these, the most common reason was that they weren’t ready to stop drinking or using. That can seem perplexing to friends and family. How could someone believe that their substance use was a problem and not be ready to stop? People have complicated feelings about substance use. They can admit it has serious drawbacks but still feel like they need it to function and not be miserable. Drugs and alcohol are, for many people, a way of coping with difficult memories and emotions. They may also enjoy substance use, even if they don’t enjoy the consequences of substance use. It may take a while for them to decide the benefits aren’t worth the consequences.

They thought they couldn’t afford treatment.

There’s a popular misconception that addiction treatment is just for rich people. We see frequent news stories about celebrities going into–or back into–treatment and it’s easy to get the idea that treatment isn’t for normal people. In reality, there are many different levels of treatment–a continuum of care ranging from therapy or outpatient services to intensive inpatient treatment. There is also a broad price range within each of these options. It’s also worth noting that more expensive treatment is not necessarily better since after a certain level you’re paying for luxury and not care. Most insurers now cover some degree of addiction treatment and most treatment centers accept several forms of insurance. Recent changes in the rules also allow Medicare and Medicaid to be used to pay for more treatment options. Even if you don’t think you can afford treatment, it’s a good idea to call some treatment centers or a treatment services provider and ask what they can do for you. You may have more options than you think.

They didn’t know where to go for treatment.

It’s hard to believe that with all the treatment options vying for our attention in recent years that someone who needs treatment really has no idea where to go. For many people in this category, not knowing where to go might just be an excuse. However, for others, this is a legitimate problem. For one thing, there are somewhere around 14,000 addiction treatment centers in the US. Many of them provide mediocre or low-quality care and some are worse than getting no treatment at all. With so many options, it’s hard to know who to trust. Another issue is that many rural areas are woefully underserved. Some communities don’t have any treatment services within a hundred miles. That’s too far to commute and not everyone can relocate. New services like outreach programs and telemedicine are intended to address this problem but they aren’t yet widespread. 

They were afraid of what the neighbors might think.

We’ve come a long way in recent years addressing the stigma of addiction but we still have a long way to go. According to a 2018 poll by AP-NORC, more than half of Americans now see addiction as a disease that needs treatment but fewer than 20 percent are willing to closely associate with someone with a substance use disorder. Our views of addiction are complicated and sometimes even paradoxical and this understandably makes people reluctant to be open about their substance use issues. However, there are two important points to make here. First, addiction treatment is confidential and treatment centers can’t release information about you without your consent. If you have concerns, you can ask about a facility’s privacy policies. Second, addiction is a progressive disease, which means it will only get worse. You can hide a substance use disorder for a while, but it will eventually have visible consequences–job loss, divorce, arrest, accident, or others. It’s better to seek treatment before those consequences if possible. 

They were afraid it might have a negative effect on their job. 

Finally, people are afraid of the effect addiction treatment will have on their job. This could mean two things. First, they may fear that they will be stigmatized if their coworkers find out about their substance use issues. This is pretty much like the problem described above but with perhaps more direct consequences for people’s livelihoods. For example, a doctor may fear losing patients if they find out about her substance use issues. Second, they may fear missing work to attend treatment will cost them their jobs or advancement opportunities. Typically, your job will be safe unless you’ve violated company policy. The Family Medical Leave Act protects your job for up to 12 weeks while you seek addiction treatment. While you might miss advancement opportunities while you’re out, your career will be damaged far more in the long run if your substance use continues to get worse. Treatment is an investment for the future of your career, as well as your family and yourself. 

At Patrick Hart Consultants, we provide a number of different services to fit the needs of each individual client. Among these, are helping you choose a treatment provider, helping you develop a treatment plan, helping you establish post-treatment support, and ensuring continuity among the different elements of treatment. Contact us today at 844-262-7970 or Info@PatrickHartConsultants.com or explore our website for more information.

AUTHOR: Patrick Hart Consultants