Why are so few addicts getting treatment knowing that eventually they might die?

The U.S. is in the grip of an opioid-addiction epidemic, yet 80 percent of people who are dependent on heroin or painkillers are not getting treatment, according to a new research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Millions of people suffer from addiction in the U.S., but only a small percentage enter treatment.

Please explain why. Thanks

Super User Asked on August 29, 2018 in Addiction case.
Add Comment
9 Answer(s)
Best answer

Thank you for asking this mind boggling question. Attempting to answer it:

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.
  • Shame: 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.
  • Fear: 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.

Consulted Sources:  Addiction Campuses.

Good Luck!

Moderator Answered on August 30, 2018.
Add Comment

This is actually a very sensitive and foundational question. The government, community and a number of social workers have laid the means and resources to help and treat people with addiction cases, but only a few patients have the guts to take up this opportunity. It keeps me wondering, is there too much stigma in our community that people are willing to die because of it? Or would a patient be too concerned about their esteem that they would rather die than receive treatment? If that’s the case then perhaps the only most effective way about it is to coerce patients into getting treatment, I believe someone may debate otherwise, but if someone is doing something we are sure will result them into death, then it’s nolonger a question of freedom, I think.

Just giving my view but I believe a serious coercive force may be necessary to hunt down and offer help to individuals who have completely refused rehabilitation while they continue on the journey towards suicide. I stand to be corrected.

Thanks Moderator for the detailed answer, offers a beginning point.


Regular User Answered on August 30, 2018.
Add Comment

Moderator, your answer is very pertinent and I learned a lot reading you. You know your subject very well and I thank you very much for the details. It makes total sense.

To interject with OkidaCharles comments, I don’t think you can push/force/oblige/mandate addicts into treatments if they don’t want any. It is very sad but until addicts are fully aware of their state, there is nothing anybody can do but being there when they are ready.

In our organization, I see that most addicts will seek treatments when they reach rock-bottom financially or they are close to death.

A great question would be: How to attract addicts into treatment ?


Super User Answered on August 31, 2018.
Add Comment

Awesome! I am glad you find it useful. Thank you again for the question, I guess we’ll continue to look into how best we can “Attract Addicts” towards the help they so direly need. The lack of this approach I believe is responsible for the turn up of few numbers, and perhaps how we can substantially minimize their hugest fears of Shame, Naivety and fear of stigma. I noticed this discussion has been moved to another topic, we’ll continue it over here.  Thank You!

Moderator Answered on August 31, 2018.
Add Comment

Thank you @Olivier, I guess I was looking at the solution on the other side of the coin. Forcing help on someone may not yield the much needed results given that the healing process is indeed a cumbersome process that requires full consent and long term commitment of a patient. Thanks for bringing this out!

Regular User Answered on August 31, 2018.
Add Comment

@Olivier, thanks you make some really great points. Some people just have a problem, don’t realize they have one, or just deny that they have one to themselves.

Sometimes even the people closest to us trying the most to help us end up  enabling us the most, when they try to give us as many second changes and safety nets. I think any decent human being would have to deal with the guilt of being the cause for holding everyone around them down, at which point you just wanna shy away and be forgotten.

Starting completely over in a new place gave me the cold water splash to the face, it was sad though because I had to temporarily cut ties with family and friends for a period of time, and reach out to strangers for support. This was scary but effective, stepping back to square one with no one left to disappoint, put the ball back in my court to step towards recovery.

In the end, I wasn’t ever really alone, there’s really good networks of help and resources. That’s not to say it wasn’t one hell of a monolith task, it’s intimidating when everyone else has already taken a bunch of steps to building a life and just has it together, and I’m just now stepping onto the starting plate after all this time. It sounds petty now, but just that alone made me contemplate suicide, just snuffing out rather than starting over.

Starting over completely, relying on a different people sometimes strangers sometimes professional help, got me started on a different track, helped me put into perspective how much of my life was a result of my actions , life doesn’t always set up, but it doesn’t change how I can rise to those occasions. Building off of that momentum, (competence leads to confidence) I’ve continued to get back on track to finding a new path in life.

“Not As We” by Alanis Morissette summarizes the journey in a good theme song.

Regular User Answered on August 31, 2018.
Add Comment

Thank you HyunPsyDook for sharing your story. It is very touching and all the praise to you for trying to change and turn your life around almost on your own. Only addicts can understand what you are going through. Lets remember that Recovery is a life long battle worth fighting. We all admire your courage. Keep fighting, good luck and all the best in your journey.

Super User Answered on September 5, 2018.
Add Comment

HyunPsyDook, also remember, your are not alone. There are a lot of people out there ready to help you and support you in your journey. Keep your mind open to people because you never know who you can meet. One of them could be your savior. We are proud of you. Best regards.

Super User Answered on September 5, 2018.
Add Comment

HyunPsyDook, supplementing on the words of @Olivier, feel free to find more support from a professional. So you can be sure you’ve “locked-down” your current state of health to its best. Here are listed doctors and professional support or rehabilitation and you can easily find one nearest you. Thanks again, and keep sharing! This way, we can support each other!!

Moderator Answered on September 5, 2018.
Add Comment

Your Answer

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.