Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a spectrum of alcohol dependence, ranging from mild to severe. It is characterized by one’s inability to stop or control his or her consumption of alcohol. A 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) revealed that 15.1 million Americans over the age of 18 suffer from AUD.
In the same year, only 6.7 percent of participants received treatment. There can be a number of barriers to treatment that people struggling with AUD could encounter that ultimately results in their addiction going untreated entirely.
Why Don’t More People Seek Help?
A recent study by the Recovery Research Institute looked at data from a National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). In 2001-2002, NESARC surveyed over 43,000 American adults; approximately 23 percent reported a lifetime alcohol abuse problem that had gone untreated.
The survey, through a series of targeted questions, aimed to determine whether or not these participants recognized the need for treatment and to uncover the reasons they had never sought help.
Barriers to recovery fell into one of five common areas with which participants identified.
- Readiness For Change
A closer examination breaks these categories down into more detailed answers. Many were common barriers that people struggling with addiction encounter.
Common Barriers To Seeking Addiction Treatment
“I thought I should be strong enough to handle it on my own.”
The survey revealed that this was the most commonly identified reason that participants with AUD did not seek professional help with their addiction; 42 percent of adults surveyed endorsed this response as to why they did not look for assistance with their addiction. It falls into the Attitudinal category and shows that many people suffering from addiction simply do not recognize the need for seeking treatment.
“I did not think that my drinking problem was serious enough.”
This response can be seen as either an inability to perceive the problem or as simply a denial that there is one. It can be difficult to tell ‘how much is too much’ when it comes to individual drinking habits.
So what does problem drinking look like? The recommended drinking limits for men and women are different, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Low-risk drinking is limited to:
- Men—no more than 4 standard drinks a day and no more than 14 a week
- Women—no more than 3 standard drinks a day and no more than 7 a week
Psychiatric professionals use a different method for identifying problems with drinking and determine whether a diagnosis of alcoholism is appropriate. The Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) covers nearly all psychiatric illnesses and helps identify symptoms that could be signs of a disorder.
According to the DSM, anybody meeting 2 of these 11 criteria is considered to be on the AUD spectrum.
- Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
- More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but could not?
- Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the aftereffects?
- Experienced craving — a strong need, or urge, to drink?
- Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
- Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
- Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
- More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
- Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
- Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
- Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there?
“I was afraid of _______.”
Fear can be an incredibly powerful barrier to seeking addiction treatment. Common fears include:
- Loss (home, family, friends, job etc.)
- Identity change
Part of successful treatment programs is identifying and confronting these fears and realizing that they can be overcome with consistent practice, strong support, and the cultivation of healthy habits. Recovery is hard work and requires dedication and strength in the face of your fears.
“I thought that I could not afford treatment.”
It is true that some treatment options can come with high costs. However, there are resources available to mitigate them significantly. It is important to inquire what your insurance will cover and to research options that protect your job for when you are ready to return to work, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act. Also look for facilities that offer grants, scholarships, and affordable payment plans. Treatment may seem expensive at first, but continuing to fall prey to your addiction will cost you so much more in the long run.
If you are struggling with Alcohol Use Disorder in Washington State, there is help available for you. Recovery Village Ridgefield will work with you to develop an evidence-based treatment plan that suits your individual needs. You will work toward recovery in our peaceful campus nestled deep in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Our professional addiction experts are ready to speak with you about your next steps; contact us today to get started.