Walking down the street in any big city, whether it be New York City or Philadelphia, it’s not uncommon to see a person sitting on the ground drinking from a brown paper bag or begging on the streets for spare change. You may also be familiar with that one friend who always has too much to drink at the bar, a family member who is on their third DUI, or a co-worker who is always getting into trouble at work events. At some point in your life, you will come into contact with someone in need of treatment that has not gotten help. Many of us are quick to ask why that person has not gotten help when it is so obvious that they need it. Before you judge, however, understand that there are many reasons why someone may not get the treatment they need.

Just as every person is unique, every situation and addiction is complex and different. People who are in need of help for a substance abuse problem may have various reasons for not actually seeking treatment. It could be due to a mental health or personal issue, or something else entirely. A statistic from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that there are an estimated 20.8 million Americans ages 12 and older in 2008 who were in need of treatment, but did not receive it. Out of those 20.8 million, 95% of those people felt that they did not need help. 3.7% reported that they needed treatment, but did not try to get it. The last 1.1% of people wanted treatment, tried to get it, and did not actually receive it. Another shocking number coming from this study reports that 10.6 million adults from age 18 and up reported having an untreated mental health condition.

When asked, there were numerous reasons given for not seeking treatment. Many who simply did not make an attempt to get help shared several things in common with those who said they needed treatment and actually made an effort to obtain it. About 39% said they were not ready to stop using their drug or alcohol of choice as opposed to the 29% who made an effort. 32% of people did not seek help even when they knew they it was needed because they could not afford the cost, compared to 29% who tried to get help could not afford the cost due to no health coverage.

Other reasons someone in need of treatment will not get the proper treatment for either their substance abuse or mental health issue are as follows:

  • Treatment would have a negative effect on their job
  • The community might have a negative opinion of them
  • No means of transportation to get to the treatment center
  • They were able to overcome their problem without treatment
  • Not knowing where to go for treatment
  • Fear of being committed to taking medicine on a daily basis

As for the 95% of people who felt that they did not need help with their addiction, there are several explanations that professionals have come up with for this reasoning. Many are in denial about their problem and don’t want to believe that they cannot stop on their own. Control is also a driver as to why people do not think they need help. People don’t like the idea of being out of control of their own lives. Another reason is the fear of entering treatment. Addicts are scared to give up their substance of choice and are scared to live life without it. Some are not willing to go to treatment because they think that no one cares about them getting better.

Are you Someone in Need of Treatment?

The important thing to remember is that help is available for someone in need of treatment, and keep in mind that encouragement goes a long way with helping a loved one.  Even though the individual has to make the changes on their own, the support of friends and family can help push him or her to make better decisions for themselves.

If you or a loved one is someone in need of treatment and you want to learn more about drug treatment and intervention, give us a call at the Discovery Institute today to speak with a member of our staff: (800) 714-2175.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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