Why Don’t People Seek Help for Addiction?
If you have a loved one with a substance use issue, it can be hard to understand why they won’t get help. It may be obvious to everyone that their drinking and drug use is having a negative effect on their lives and the lives of everyone around them, but they still refuse to do anything about it. If you care about someone, it’s important to encourage them in a supportive, nonjudgmental way to get help for addiction. To that end, it helps to understand some of the most common reasons people give for not seeking help, as identified by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Most Don’t Believe They Have a Problem
Of all the people with substance use issues of various degrees, relatively few seek help and even fewer get the help they need. Of the people who never get help, more than 95 percent just don’t believe they have a problem. Why they believe that is a whole other issue. Many could be in denial. It’s hard to come to grips with the idea that you’ve lost control of your substance use and that it's a problem that you can’t solve on your own. Rationalization is also a defense mechanism that protects addictive behavior.
The remaining five percent of people know that drugs and alcohol have become a problem but they either haven’t sought help or they have sought help but were unable to get it for some reason. The remaining obstacles apply to both groups, although not necessarily in the same order.
Many Just Aren’t Ready to Quit
Of people who know they have a problem but don’t get help, the bigger group is the one comprising people who know they have a problem but haven't sought treatment. This can be incredibly frustrating for loved ones because it seems so obvious that if drugs and alcohol are a problem, you should seek help to quit. However, it’s crucial to understand your loved one’s ambivalence. If they know their substance use is hurting them but they keep doing it anyway, there is probably a reason. Often, people with substance use issues are self-medicating for trauma or mental health issues. They feel like getting sober would deprive them of their only coping mechanism. Whatever their reasons, it’s important to listen and try to understand.
Cost Is Often an obstacle
We tend to think that addiction treatment is only for the rich and famous. We hear about celebrities doing long stints in rehab and assume it’s not for regular people. However, treatment is more affordable than most people realize. First, there is a continuum of care, ranging from outpatient services to extended inpatient treatment and most people can afford some level of professional care. Even if it’s not the level of care you think you need, it’s important to know that any amount of work put towards recovery is worth it in the end. If you can only afford to go to 12-Step meetings, then do that and supplement with therapy if necessary. Many therapists work on a sliding scale for people who need it.
Second, there are more ways to pay for treatment than there have ever been. Most insurance will pay for at least some of treatment and quality treatment centers typically accept several forms of insurance. Recent changes in the law also allow federal money, such as from Medicare and Medicaid to be used for more addiction treatment options. Before you assume you can’t afford treatment, call some programs you like and see if they’ll work with you.
Many Are Afraid It Will Affect Their Jobs
There are several ways that treatment might affect your job. The most obvious is that people are afraid they’ll get fired for taking a month or more off of work to get treatment. According to the Family Medical Leave Act, your employer can’t fire you for taking up to 12 weeks off for addiction treatment. That doesn’t protect you from violations such as drinking or using drugs on the job, but it does guarantee time off for treatment.
Many people can’t afford to take time off work, even if they can afford treatment. In that case, it’s important to be aware that most treatment options don’t actually require you to miss work. An intensive outpatient program, for example, allows you to live at home and work while still receiving a high level of care.
The Stigma of Addiction Is Real
Many people are just afraid of being stigmatized as an “addict.” They don’t want their friends, neighbors, or coworkers to know they have a problem. Unfortunately, addiction is a progressive disease and at some point they will likely find out due to circumstances beyond your control. Declining work performance might lead you to lose your job, for example, or you might get a DUI. It’s better to address the problem on your own terms. Keep in mind that addiction treatment programs have to follow the same strict privacy rules as hospitals and doctors offices, so there’s no reason anyone needs to know you’re getting treatment.
It’s Hard to Know Where to Get Treatment
These days, it feels like we’re constantly inundated with ads for addiction treatment. There are more than 14,000 addiction treatment facilities in the US and it can be hard to choose. Many of these facilities are mediocre and some are really bad. If you want your loved one to get help, you’re probably going to have to do most of the research to find them a good program. Look for accreditation, qualified staff, and evidence-based treatment methods. Good programs will want a lot of information about potential clients to know whether they are a good fit.
Some Want to Handle It on Their Own
Finally, some people don’t seek help because they think they can handle the problem on their own. This is another form of denial, since addiction is typically characterized by trying to quit but being unable to. When someone insists on handling it on their own, they are either stalling or they are slightly delusional about the amount of control they have over their situation. As they often say in AA, your best thinking is what got you here. If you want to get sober, you will have to tolerate some level of discomfort and loss of control in the short term.
There are many reasons people don’t seek help for addiction; these are just some of the more common ones. When encouraging a loved one to seek help, it’s important to listen without judgment and try to understand what substance use does for them, what’s stopping them from getting help, and what might motivate them to get sober. At The Foundry, we know that every client is different and that individualized care is essential to long-term success. To learn more about our treatment programs, call us at 1 (844) 955-1066 or explore our website.