Why Don’t People Seek Help for Addiction?

In June 2016, Vertava Health published the article, “The 3 Biggest Reasons People Don’t Seek Help for Addiction.”  They state – America is experiencing explosive growth in alcohol and drug addiction.  Approximately 23 million individuals struggle with addiction and only around 10% seek and receive treatment.

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 35 million people worldwide suffer from drug use disorder while only 1 in 7 people receive treatment.

SAMSA reported 46.3 million people aged 12 or older (~ 16.5 percent of the population) met the DSM-5 criteria for having a substance use disorder in the past year, around 29.5 million of these people have alcohol use disorder and 24 million people have drug use disorder (2021).

In Utah, only 10% of individuals with substance abuse disorder receive treatment.  Overall, addiction is getting worse – locally, nationally and globally.

According to the Vertava Health article, when an individual is actively engaged in their addiction, they tend to avoid getting help.  They justify and rationalize their behavior to escape the reality of the negative impact addictive behavior has on their life. Three of the biggest obstacles to seeking treatment are:


Denial is refusal to admit the truth.  The Vertava Health article states that addiction creates a form of “smoke and mirrors” that make it difficult to detect the source of problems.  For example, an addict may use alcohol or drugs to cope with losing their job.  Not realizing that the real reason they lost their job was because of their substance abuse.  Substances may have led them to be chronically late for work, unreliable on the job and contributing to difficulty getting along with others.  “Instead of seeing their drug of choice as the source of their problem, they see the drink or drugs as their relief.”  The person is so focused on their substance use/abuse they deny its existence, despite obvious evidence.


Shame is the belief that there is something wrong with you – you are bad.  For many individuals, it is difficult to admit that they have an addiction.  This may be caused by the stigma surrounding addiction and treatment.  Some people feel like they are not worthy of getting help.  This can create feelings of hopelessness and avoidance of making positive changes.


Many people are afraid of what treatment and/or recovery may require.  They can’t imagine life without using alcohol or drugs.  They don’t understand recovery.  Recovery is a lifelong journey which requires daily commitment and determination to seek healthy thinking and behaviors.   Many individuals fear going through detox which can be emotionally and physically uncomfortable.  They might fear being honest and “opening up” in therapy to deal with painful feelings and memories.  Many individuals have tried to stop using, but have relapsed.  Therefore, they may fear failing again.

When an individual is struggling with addiction, they often avoid getting help and making positive changes.  For more information about this topic please see the “Vertava Top Three Reasons” article.



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