Why do people who need drug and alcohol treatment don’t get it?
There are several people who need drug and alcohol treatment, but don’t get it, Why?When you see, people walking around looking disheveled, passed out, clutching a bottle of alcohol or acting belligerent – whether it’s California, Florida, New York, Kansas, Illinois or anywhere else in the United States it’ll make you wonder why they don’t get help. The same thing goes for the co-worker who keeps showing up late, makes a fool of themselves at the office Christmas parties and the friend or loved one who’s on their 3rd DUI charge. There’s a big chance that you know someone with a drug or alcohol problem, or mental health issue. You would think they want to get treatment for the issue. In these examples, what are the reasons they don’t get treatment for their condition?
These answers may not be a big surprise. The fact is many of the situations are diverse and very complicated. There is no one reason for this behavior. All too often it’s a combination of reasons. Reasons also change over time.
According to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NDSUH) an estimated 20.8 million Americans from ages 12 and older in 2008 that needed treatment for addiction, alcoholism or dual diagnosis; didn’t receive it at a treatment center specializing in their issue. 95% of those who needed the treatment felt they didn’t need it or didn’t want it. 20.8 million Americans 8.3 % of the population in the United States and 95 % didn’t think they needed it or didn’t want to go to treatment.
The number of people needing treatment is a big number, but when put into perspective that only 10 % of those people received treatment at a treatment center with a specializing focus on their issues.
Below we’re going to break down some of those reasons for not getting treatment for substance abuse in each group of people. Substance abuse includes prescription drugs, illicit drugs and alcohol.
They needed substance abuse treatment, but made no effort to get it.
According to NSDUH data from 2005-2008 surveys concluded, there were five primary reasons why people who felt they needed substance abuse treatment, but made no effort to get it:
- Unready or unwilling to stop using (38.8 percent)
- No healthcare coverage for drug rehab / couldn’t afford it. (32.1 percent)
- Negative effect on job (12.3 percent)
- Not knowing where to go for drug treatment / no beds available (12.9 percent)
- Concern of what peers and neighbors will think (11.8 percent)
Needed Addiction Treatment, and Made the Effort
People, who felt they needed substance abuse treatment and made the effort to get it, offered these 8 reasons why they didn’t receive drug and alcohol care:
- No healthcare coverage for drug rehab / couldn’t afford it. (27.4 percent)
- Unready or unwilling to stop using (29.3 percent)
- Capable of handling problem without drug and alcohol treatment (13.0 percent)
- Had no transportation and/or traveling inconvenience. (10.5 percent)
- Treatment type unavailable. (8.3 percent)
- Didn’t feel a need for the drug and alcohol treatment at the time. (8.2 percent)
- Not knowing where to go for drug treatment / no beds available. (8.1 percent)
- Concern of what peers and neighbors will think. (7.7 percent)
- Negative effect on job (7.4 percent)
Reasons Why People Didn’t Receive Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
According to NSDUH, in 2008, there were 10.6 million adults from 18 and over who reported an unmet need for substance abuse and mental healthcare. These figures include 5.1 million people who didn’t receive any substance abuse or mental healthcare over the year prior.
The people who didn’t receive substance abuse and mental health treatment identified the following 10 barriers:
- No healthcare coverage for drug rehab / couldn’t afford it. (42.7 percent)
- Capable of handling problem without drug and alcohol treatment. (28.6 percent)
- Not knowing where to go for drug treatment / no beds available. (19.8 percent)
- Didn’t have the time (13.9 percent)
- Fear of being committed or having to take medicine. (9.6 percent)
- Concerned about confidentiality (8.5 percent)
- Health insurance didn’t cover substance abuse and mental health. (8.0 percent)
- Concern of what peers and neighbors will think. (7.7 percent)
- Substance abuse treatment couldn’t help. (7.2 percent)
- Health Insurance didn’t cover enough treatment. (7.2 percent)
What About Those Who Felt They Didn’t Need Substance Abuse Treatment?
Here’s what we do know about the 95.2 % of people who needed drug and alcohol treatment, but didn’t get it because they didn’t see a need. What are the underlying reasons beyond saying they didn’t feel they needed the help? The statistics only paint the picture of half the issue, but what is the underlying cause they refused treatment for drug addiction and alcoholism.
Many addiction professionals will tell you there are several issues contributing to their decision to not seek treatment for drug addiction or alcoholism. These can include one, some or all of the following 8 reasons:
- Denial – One of the most common forms of deception addiction has to offer. Addicts often provide rationalizations or justifications for their use. Mainly they just refuse to accept they have a problem. The addict may be so deep down the rabbit hole of their drug addiction or alcoholism they deny it despite the facts.
- Control – Many male addicts have impulse control issues which lead to it being difficult to admit they need help. They don’t like the lack of control they have on their life especially when it comes to making a decision to go under someone’s guidance for a month or more. For many addicts with control issues seeking treatment is very far down the list of things they need or want to do.
- Fear – Determination, motivation and courage are the guiding factors for entering treatment and it takes a lot of these to submit to going to drug and alcohol treatment. Many addicts are fearful of treatment mainly because they don’t want to let go of the drugs and the lifestyle. Many are afraid of the detox process and withdrawal symptoms.
- Loss of drug or alcohol supply – Most addicts won’t enter drug and alcohol treatment because they won’t have access to their supply of drugs and alcohol. Most, if not all drug and alcohol treatment programs require abstinence. Many are residential treatment programs or require drug testing. Most know they can’t use and if they do they’ll be caught.
- Can’t Give Up High – The majority of addicts don’t want to give up the effects produced by drugs and alcohol. They’re so caught up in chasing the next high that they lose sight of everything but the chase. Regardless of harm to themselves or anyone else they just won’t stop.
- Treatment Won’t Help – Many addicts feel they can’t be helped. Many have attended a drug and alcohol treatment center before only to be unsuccessful. Those with a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder in particular, are the ones who typically feel the most hopeless
- Nobody Cares – After many years of addiction you burn many bridges, harming family friends and the like. Many friends and family members of addicts have heard the song and dance before. So they in turn, turn a blind eye. So, addicts find themselves with no support or help from loved ones.
- Want to Die – We’ve talked several times within our blog about the connection between self-esteem and addiction. Many who struggle with addiction have a very low self-worth and feel they’re better off death. Many addicts caught up in their addiction feel they’re better off dead because they don’t want to feel pain anymore.
Finding Help for Alcoholism and Substance Abuse
Now you’ve learned about several reasons a person may not want to go to drug and alcohol treatment. However, some of these reasons could have been removed if the public were educated on how to find treatment for drug addiction and alcoholism. There are several treatment facility locators that will guide you on your journey of finding a good drug and alcohol program. (SAMHSA) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a searchable directory for people seeking treatment for drug addiction and alcoholism. Anyone with a drug addiction or alcoholism looking for treatment can call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357), available in English and Spanish, or TDD at 1-800-487-4889. This is a toll-free, national referral service for locating alcohol and drug abuse treatment programs.