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Barriers to Addiction Treatment: Why Addicts Don’t Seek Help

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10 min read
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What you will learn:
Learn more about addiction treatment types and options.
Understanding how your location and insurance can affect where you receive treatment.
Finding ways to over come obstacles and challenge when seeking treatment.
Why call us?

There is a marked discrepancy between the number of people who need addiction treatment in the United States and those who actually receive it.

What Are The Most Common Barriers to Addiction Treatment?

Barriers to finding addiction treatment may vary by personal situation, but the most common barriers include:

  • Financial/Cost
  • Geographic Location
  • Stigma
  • Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment Availability

In 2018, about 21.2 million people age 12 and older, or approximately 1 in 13 people in this age group, needed substance abuse treatment.1 People go untreated for many reasons. They may be reluctant to seek treatment because they hold certain beliefs about it, or they may not have insurance to cover the costs. Or they may live in an area where treatment isn’t available.

Whatever the case may be, there are changes occurring on several fronts that can make treatment more accessible for more people. Changes in insurance coverage may open the door for increasing numbers of people to get the treatment they need. Innovations, such as teleheath, allow people in secluded areas to connect with providers without having to travel long distances. Additionally, alternative options to treatment—such as 12-step groups and other self-help programs—are free and widely available.

Even though many barriers remain, some encouraging signs point to treatment becoming more within reach for populations who have struggled to find recovery help in the past.

American Addiction Centers offers free and confidential guidance to those suffering from addiction. Call us today at There, an admissions navigator is open to you 24/7 to hear your story, help you determine a treatment plan, and verify your insurance coverage over the phone.

Verify Your Insurance

AAC provides a process for easy verification of insurance benefits so you can quickly see whether your insurance plan will cover some or all of your treatment costs at an American Addiction Centers facility.

Sources

  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2008). What Is Substance Abuse Treatment? A Booklet for Families.
  3. Johns Hopkins Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and Research. (n.d.). Treatment Settings.
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016). 2016 State Profile—United States and Other Jurisdictions: National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS).
  5. Alcoholics Anonymous. (2017). Estimates of A.A. Groups and Members as of January 1, 2017 and Narcotics Anonymous. (2016). Narcotics Anonymous 2015 Membership Survey.
  6. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2017). Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2016: 21-1011 Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors.
  7. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS): 2020 Data on Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities.
  8. National Rural Health Association. (2017). Treating the Rural Opioid Epidemic.
  9. Lenardson, J. and Gale, J. (2008). Distribution of Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities Across the Rural-Urban Continuum. Muskie School of Public Service, University of Southern Maine.
  10. Pullen, E. and Oser, C. (2014). Barriers to Substance Abuse Treatment in Rural and Urban Communities: A Counselor Perspective. Substance Use & Misuse, 49(7), 891–901.
  11. Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. (2017). Key Facts About the Uninsured Population.
  12. Mojtabai, R. et al. (2011). Barriers to Mental Health Treatment: Results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Psychological Medicine, 41(8), 1751–1761.
  13. Saloner, B. and Le Cook, B. (2013). Blacks and Hispanics Are Less Likely Than Whites to Complete Addiction Treatment, Largely Due to Socioeconomic Factors. Health Affairs, 32(1).
  14. National Rural Health Association. (2017). Treating the Rural Opioid Epidemic.
  15. American Addiction Centers. (n.d.). How Much Does Alcohol Rehab Cost?
  16. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). How Much Does Opioid Treatment Cost?
  17. Rapp, R., et al. (2006). Treatment barriers identified by substance abusers assessed at a centralized intake unit. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 30(3), 227–235.
  18. Greenfield, S., et al. (2007). Substance Abuse Treatment Entry, Retention, and Outcome in Women: A Review of the Literature. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 86(1), 1–21.
  19. Green, C. Gender and Use of Substance Abuse Treatment Services. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  20. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2017). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
  21.  Priester, M. (2016). Treatment Access Barriers and Disparities Among Individuals with Co-Occurring Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders: An Integrative Literature Review. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 61, 47–59.
  22. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Part 4: Barriers to Comprehensive Treatment for Individuals with Co-Occurring Disorders.
  23. National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS). (n.d.). Annual Reports.
  24. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2017). SAMHSA report shows increase in opioid treatment facilities.
  25. Raths, D. (2018). Telehealth put to use in rural America. Behavioral Health Executive.
  26. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA).
  27. Landry, M. (2012). Anti-Stigma Toolkit: A Guide to Reducing Addiction-Related Stigma. Central East Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network.
  28. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2009). Substance Abuse Treatment: Addressing the Specific Needs of Women.
  29. Federal Grants. (2018). State Incentive Grants for Treatment of Persons with Co-Occurring Substance Related and Mental Disorders.
  30. Hornik, J. (2010). Creating Sustainable Structural Changes in State Mental Health and Substance Abuse Systems: Findings From the National Evaluation of SAMHSA’s Co-occurring State Incentive Grant Program. Presentation to the AEA Conference.
  31. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2017). SAMHSA awards up to $34.4 million in grants to improve treatment for youth with substance use disorders and/or co-occurring substance use and mental disorders.
  32. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2009). The Evidence: Integrated Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders.
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