At any given time, fewer than half of people who need treatment for drug or alcohol addiction seek treatment. Exactly what percentage depends on where you live. In some countries, about half of people who need treatment seek it and in other countries the number is less than 10 percent. What’s more, the percentage of people seeking treatment does not seem to depend on how many treatment options are available. The US, for example, has a lot of treatment centres relative to its population, yet the national average for people seeking treatment hovers around 10 percent. Why don’t people seek help for addiction?
They don’t want to quit.
The top reason is that they just don’t want to quit. Many people whose drug use or drinking has become a problem are in denial. They either don’t see the damage addiction is doing to their lives or they believe they can quit whenever they want. Some people just feel like their lives are pretty good and their drug use or drinking hasn’t yet caused them any problems. Since there’s no bright line between use and misuse, it’s hard to say how many people are problem users. What’s clear is that no one quits for long if she doesn’t want to.
They fear the stigma.
Many people with drug or alcohol use disorders are experts at hiding it. Even those who aren’t good at hiding it believe no one knows and that their reputations will suffer if they seek help. Unfortunately, this may be true to some extent. People know, rationally, that addiction is a disease, but they still judge.
There is good news though. First, you don’t have to advertise that you’re getting treatment. You will have to admit you have a problem and you need help, which can be hard, but you don’t have to go around telling people. Second, the sooner you get treatment, the less it will disrupt your life and call attention to the problem. If an addiction keeps getting worse, eventually everyone will notice it anyway. Third, while about half of people feel stigmatised before treatment, only about 30 percent feel stigmatised during recovery. That’s a drop of 40 percent just from getting sober.
They don’t know where to get help.
It’s hard to see this as a legitimate excuse. If anything, there are too many options to choose from. A good place to start might be with your doctor or therapist. She can help you come up with a plan for treatment and refer you to a treatment centre.
The wait is too long.
Waiting lists are just a fact of life in many areas. There are too many people and too few beds. Usually, someone seeking treatment doesn’t have to wait more than a few days, but sometimes even a few days is too long. If you are put on a waitlist, ask around and see if you can get in somewhere sooner. Put your name on other lists just in case something opens up and be ready to go on short notice.
Castle Craig is one of the most established and respected addiction rehab centres in the UK. Castle Craig treats alcoholism and drug addiction as an illness and promote abstinence as essential for long-lasting recovery. We help patients recover through an intensive, personalised programme that combines medical treatment, 12 Step therapy, CBT and other psychiatric therapies and complementary therapies. For information, call our 24 hour free confidential phone-line: 0808 256 3732. From outside the UK please call: +44 1721 788 006 (normal charges apply).
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | January 29, 2020