It is often said that admitting there’s a problem and seeking help are the first and most difficult steps on the journey toward addiction recovery. Getting past denial and asking for help certainly are challenging, and no addict will get better without taking these steps. However, studies and surveys show that additional challenges are in store for addicts seeking care. There are numerous barriers to treatment that keep thousands of addicts from getting help every year in the U.S. These barriers must be torn down in order to help everyone who seeks it.
Internal Barriers Are Difficult to Remove
Internal barriers to treatment are personal and, therefore, difficult to address or change from a public health perspective. One of the biggest is the stigma that is attached to being addicted. Addicts resist admitting to having a problem and reaching out for help because of the way that society generally views them — weak and pitiful. Denial is another powerful barrier to getting help. Many addicts fail to recognize that their substance abuse or drinking presents a problem. They often believe they can stop any time they wish. Another very personal issue for addicts is the lack of a support network. Many addicts have been abandoned by loved ones or at least feel as if they have been abandoned. The thought of trying to come clean without support is daunting and stops many addicts from seeking help. Finally, fear of getting treatment is a personal barrier that gets in the way of sobriety. Many addicts fear the unknown. They feel anxious about not knowing what treatment will be like. They also fear the embarrassment or shame that may come up when seeking help.
External Barriers Can Be Improved
Changing internal barriers to treatment is not easy to do because of how personal they are. The responsibility falls on the addict and any supportive loved ones to try to remove those barriers and to get individual addicts to seek help. External factors, on the other hand, can be addressed by policy makers, law enforcement and experts in the field of addiction. It is possible to make changes that could help more addicts get into treatment programs. Studies show that there are some common external barriers that keep addicts from getting help. Time conflicts are common barriers; addicts wanting to get treatment may not be able to attend day sessions because of work, or evening sessions because of parenting responsibilities. If facilities offered services at various times and on all days of the week, more addicts might be able to find the time to get help. Cost is another important barrier to treatment. Not all addicts have health insurance or coverage that includes addiction care. More government subsidies could help addicts with limited resources get into care. Even for those with insurance or who have accessed subsidies, access to treatment facilities may be a problem. In some locations, especially in rural areas, treatment may be too far away. People living in rural areas also may face the dual issue of access and poverty. Getting to a distant treatment program just may not be feasible. In urban areas there may be wait lists. Getting professional treatment is the only real hope that addicts have for achieving and maintaining sobriety. Unfortunately, there are a number of factors that block access to care. While internal factors are difficult to address, improvements could be made to give addicts who desperately want care the access they seek.