Our country is facing an overwhelming growth in drug and alcohol addiction. While the most recent statistic show that more than 23 million people in the U.S. are living with addiction, only roughly 10% of people with addiction actually seek and receive help for the condition. This means that over 20 million people who need treatment for addiction – aren’t getting it.
Over 20 million people have damaged their lives, hurt family members, lost custody of their children, lost their jobs and destroyed their finances – because of drugs or alcohol. What’s more: each day, more than 100 people die from a drug overdose, while even more die from illness or injury resulting from their addiction.
Given the hardships, health problems and fallout that result from substance addiction, you may wonder why so few people affected by it actually seek help. After all, if a person were suffering from any other illness of this magnitude, wouldn’t they stop at nothing to get the health that they need?
The truth is, addiction is a progressive, potentially fatal disease that is claiming and ruining lives each day – yet so many are not reaching out for help.
Why People Don’t Seek Help For Addiction
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 96% of people who are actively addicted to substances and not seeking help don’t believe they need to get treatment for help. The remaining 4% either felt they needed treatment but didn’t try to find it, or felt they needed treatment and made an effort but did not receive treatment.
In other words, roughly 19.4 million people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol don’t believe they need help for it – despite any fallout, wreckage, loss, heartache or consequences.
The Top Three Reasons People With Addiction Don’t Get Treatment
The important thing to remember is when people are in active addiction, their addiction will create any possible means of avoiding getting help. The disease justifies, rationalizes and creates false scenarios to escape the sad reality. The addicted mind will do anything to distract from the issues at hand. And while the survey results show that 96% of people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol don’t believe they need help – the reality is they are either in denial, experiencing shame, or they are afraid.
Denial is the biggest factor that allows addiction to thrive. Addiction creates a form of smoke and mirrors that can make a person oblivious to the source of the root of their problems. While many people in active addiction know that they are experiencing hardships and that they are turning to drugs or alcohol to cope with them – they may not see that those very substances are the cause of their problems. A person may drink or use drugs to deal with a job loss or failed relationship, while blaming their boss or spouse for their pain – instead of realizing that their drink or the drug was the very thing that put them in the position to lose those things. Instead of seeing their drug of choice as the source of their problem, they see the drink or the drug as their relief. The person may be so wrapped up in their drinking or drug use that they deny its existence – despite the evidence.
For many people struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it’s difficult to admit there is a need for treatment because of the stigma surrounding addiction and addiction treatment. Because shame can be one of the most overwhelming and painful emotions, it can become a barrier for seeking treatment. When a person experiences shame, they may feel as though they are not worthy of help or attention – and that makes them feel that there is no reason to turn their lives around.
The fear of going to rehab is real – and so is the fear of what recovery may mean. Thing about it: Recovery isn’t a one-time deal. Recovery is a lifelong journey and commitment that is made each and every day. It takes motivation, determination and courage to enter a program for addiction treatment. Detox can be emotionally and physically uncomfortable. Therapy can unearth painful memories and feelings that have buried for years. And a lifetime commitment to sobriety can be overwhelming. If a person has previously entered rehab but has relapsed, they may be afraid of another let down. It’s easy to understand how a person may be afraid to seek the treatment they so desperately need.
Often times, people in active addiction see only a short window of opportunity to get the help that they need with addiction. The willingness or desire to get help – or the realization that it is necessary – can fade quickly. If you or a loved one feels that it is time to get help, it’s important to act as quickly as possible: Have a plan in place and talk to a treatment specialist ahead of time. We are here for you.