It’s no secret that the United States has a drug addiction problem. What is less known, but just as important to understand, is that only one in ten people facing addiction get the help that they need to recover from addiction.
In other words, the vast majority of those struggling with addiction do not receive treatment for their addiction. This is a concerning statistic, since quitting drugs or alcohol usually takes more than a strong will to kick addiction to the curb.
It is interesting that about 1 in 10 people suffer from addiction in the United States – but what’s so sad is that only 10% of these people actually get the professional help that’s needed to recovery. But why is this the case? Is it financial challenges, denial, or a lack of resources? Probably all of these factors could be blamed at least to some degree – let’s take a closer look at this phenomenon.
Facing addiction by understanding the fundamentals of addiction is crucial to solving the mystery of why only 1 in 10 addicts get help.
“We’ve failed at solving America’s drug problem not because it’s impossible to do so, but we’ve been focusing on the wrong things. The main problem is that we’ve treated drug use as a criminal problem and drug users as morally bankrupt. There’s a growing understanding and acceptance that addiction is a disease and must be treated like we treated other diseases.”
~ David Sheff
Why Do Only 1 in 10 People Facing Addiction Get Help?
So, why is it that only 10% of people facing addiction get professional help? Narrowing this mystery down to just one single factor may not be possible, but we address all the major barriers to addiction treatment here.
The long and short of it is this: most people have to face a wide range of personal and social barriers before getting the professional addiction treatment that they need. This can be everything from the denial of addiction to a lack of resources for addiction treatment.
Overcoming these barriers is the first step to going through rehab or intensive outpatient treatment for addiction.
The Basics of Addiction Treatment
Before turning to why people are either unwilling or unable to get help for addiction, we first need to understand what addiction treatment is all about.
“As with most other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, treatment for drug addiction generally isn’t a cure. However, addiction is treatable and can be successfully managed. Treatment approaches tailored to each patient’s drug use patterns and any co-occurring medical, mental, and social problems can lead to continued recovery.”
~ The National institute on Drug Abuse
In other words, addiction treatment is more about building up personal responsibility and coping strategies than it is about actually curing the disease of addiction or alcoholism.
There are a few crucial elements of addiction treatment to understand:
- Receiving addiction treatment (in nearly any form) is all but necessary to recover from the effects of addiction.
- Addiction treatment should be tailored to each individual, depending on his or her mental, physical and social needs.
- People in addiction treatment are at risk for relapse – sometimes even for years after completing an addiction treatment program.
- Intensive outpatient programs and residential rehab have both been shown to be effective treatment options for individuals struggling with addiction.
- Effective addiction treatment only works when the individual wants to successfully overcome the negative effects of their drug addiction or alcoholism.
The Mystery Solved: Internal and External Barriers to Addiction Treatment
The impact of this statistic is already clear: it means that the vast majority of individuals struggling with addiction will continue to struggle alone. But what is it that stands in the way of people getting addiction treatment?
According to at least one study, there are both internal and external barriers to addiction treatment. In other words, when it comes to asking why people facing addiction don’t get help, there is not just one underlying cause.
Instead, some people have trouble even facing the idea of attending treatment while others may have difficulty coming up with the money for addiction treatment. One of these barriers is internal, while the other is external.
Some of the most common internal barriers to addiction treatment include:
- Depression or anxiety
- Personal beliefs about addiction
- Attitudes toward treatment
In turn, the study highlighted some of the most prevalent external barriers to why people facing addiction don’t get help:
- Time conflicts with addiction treatment
- A lack of accessibility of addiction treatment facilities
- Difficulty entering or adjusting to the addiction treatment facility
- The cost of addiction treatment
“Effective programs should offer many types of treatment, including behavioral and psychological treatments. Addiction is a disease. This isn’t about character. People who think that addicts are weak assume that will power is enough for a person to stop using.”
~ David Sheff
Nearly any barrier to addiction treatment can be considered either internal or external. Since both are crucial to raising the percentage of people who attend rehab, we look at both sides of the same coin here.
Barriers to Addiction Treatment: Denial
One of the most common barriers to addiction treatment is that many people will deny that addiction is an issue in their life. The issue here is clear: if somebody does not think that they need help, they are highly unlikely to reach out for help.
Even if this barrier to addiction treatment is relatively common, it is also one of the most difficult barriers to treatment to address in a systematic way.
After all, substance addiction has a profound impact on the brain. Addiction negatively affects the brain’s ability to make smart decisions, process consequences, and take into account the effects of risky behavior.
All of this combined means that denial often goes hand in hand with addiction. Someone who drinks a six-pack every night of the week may not even realize that they have an alcohol problem. This is where the social support of friends and family come in. Highlighting the negative effects of addiction and substance abuse is the first step to getting them professional addiction treatment.
Barriers to Addiction Treatment: Stigma
Even if someone recognizes that they struggle with addiction, they often face a second barrier to getting professional help: the stigma of addiction and substance abuse.
As we noted above, literally millions of Americans struggle with drug addiction or alcoholism. Despite these numbers, people continue to struggle with backlash in their professional and personal relationships for dealing with the disease of addiction.
Many people feel that they cannot admit their addiction or substance abuse problems to friends or family – mostly because they are afraid of what their loved ones will think about their personal character or willpower.
The best way to address this barrier to treatment is to continue to share the fact that addiction is a mental disorder – not a choice. Only by educating people about the effects of addiction on the brain can we expect to overcome this lack of understanding of people facing addiction.
Barriers to Addiction Treatment: Financial Resources
Of course, even if someone has overcome the denial of addiction and the stigma of substance abuse, they may face a more external barrier to addiction treatment options: money.
Despite many free or low-cost addiction treatment options, many people assume that drug rehab programs or intensive outpatient treatment programs are prohibitively expensive. Thankfully, this is not always the case.
Even if having insurance is not always a guarantee that all forms of treatment will be covered, the Affordable Care Act requires insurance plans to include addiction services as essential benefits.
Even when someone does not have insurance, there are many free or low-cost addiction treatment options available. For instance, Narcotics Anonymous is available free of charge, and intensive outpatient programs offer a low-cost and effective alternative to drug rehab.
Barriers to Addiction Treatment: Social Resources
If no man (or woman) is an island, then there is no question that overcoming addiction completely on your own can be extremely difficult. This is why a lack of social resources acts as one of the biggest barriers to addiction treatment.
Many people who have struggled with addiction for years have cut ties with family, friends and loved ones. It is simply just one of the many negative effects of addiction and substance abuse.
It often takes an intervention or specific action from a friend or family member for an addict to realize that they need professional help in order to kick their addiction to the curb. Unfortunately, few addicts have these social resources available to them.
If you have a loved one or family member struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate: do everything that you can to get them the help that they need to recover from the addiction. They have enough barriers to addiction treatment already, and you can help get them started on a better path.
Barriers to Addiction Treatment: Insecurity
Not all addicts fit the stereotype – many people struggling with addiction hold down a job and provide for a family. Most people would not even suspect that they struggle with substance abuse.
For these people, one of the biggest barriers to addiction treatment is feeling insecure about the future. They may worry about their job security, about what could happen to their kids, and more. Despite this apparent barrier, it is always a good idea to get professional help for your addiction or substance abuse.
Mystery Solved: You Don’t Have to Go Through Addiction Recovery Alone
If you think you have an issue with drugs or alcohol, but aren’t sure if you are addicted, consider taking our addiction quiz. Taking even just a few minutes to face the possibility of addiction head on will drastically reduce the barriers to addiction discussed above.
“Although getting substance abusers help is difficult, it starts by understanding the nature of the problem. While one person may not believe they are addicted, another may not understand how sliding scale payment for treatment works. Different individuals may need different helpful resources when it comes to understanding their options.”
~ Dr. Adi Jaffe, writing for Psychology Today
While getting addiction treatment is ultimately up to each individual facing addiction, you don’t have to go through addiction recovery alone. We want you to know this more than anything. If you still have questions about how to overcome these barriers to addiction treatment, feel free to contact us today.