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  • 10 Barriers To Alcohol Treatment

    10 Barriers To Alcohol Treatment

    According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), nearly 15 million Americans had experienced alcohol use disorder in the past year. 

    Alcohol use disorder, also called alcohol addiction, is a disease that makes you feel unable to control your alcohol use. Although it’s treatable, many people avoid treatment due to these common barriers

    1. Stigma

    Like other mental health disorders, alcohol use disorder is highly stigmatized. Many people view it as a personal failure rather than a disease. They may judge those who struggle with it as lazy, selfish, or weak. They may also use hurtful language such as “alcoholic” or “drunk.”

    To avoid facing this judgment from friends or family members, a person with alcohol use disorder may hide their condition and refuse to seek treatment. 

    2. Cost

    As with other medical treatments, addiction treatment can be extremely expensive. That’s why most people pay for treatment using health insurance

    However, not everyone has health insurance, and even those who do have it may not receive enough coverage. Thus, the cost is among the most powerful treatment barriers. 

    3. Time

    Most substance abuse treatment programs last 30, 60, or 90 days, though some last even longer. Because treatment takes time, many people worry that it will interfere with work, school, or other responsibilities. 

    Indeed, most inpatient programs require you to take time off from work or school. However, not everyone needs inpatient treatment. 

    If you have a mild addiction and a strong support system at home, you may be eligible for outpatient treatment. This option gives you more time to tend to your responsibilities. 

    4. Denial

    Some people claim their alcohol problems aren’t severe enough to necessitate treatment. Other people deny having an alcohol problem at all. 

    This type of denial prevents treatment seeking. If someone you love is in denial, ask their doctor about SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment). This public health strategy involves:

    • screening to identify the severity of alcohol use disorder and the necessary treatment methods
    • brief interventions (short counseling sessions in which a therapist discusses a person’s alcohol consumption and helps them become more motivated to seek treatment)
    • referrals to treatment programs or follow-up screenings if necessary

    5. Reluctance To Quit

    Even if someone acknowledges their need for treatment, they might not feel ready to quit drinking. They may view drinking as the only way to numb stress, grief, or other painful emotions. They may also fear the withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol dependence

    In these cases, the person can prepare for treatment by attending a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous. In these groups, people recovering from alcohol abuse share coping strategies to make recovery easier. 

    6. Difficulty Finding A Treatment Program

    It’s not always easy to find a drug abuse treatment program. For instance, some programs might not fit your budget, while others might be too far away. If you get overwhelmed or discouraged when searching for a program, you may be tempted to give up.

    Instead, ask your primary care physician for a referral. You can also use the treatment locator provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

    7. Lack Of Faith In Treatment

    According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, most people who seek drug treatment become sober and lead healthier lives. 

    Still, many individuals with alcohol use disorder believe that treatment won’t work. If someone you love is struggling with this perceived barrier, talk to them. Ask why they lack faith in treatment. 

    They might say that they sought treatment in the past and later relapsed. In that case, explain that relapse is a common part of recovery. 

    In fact, the prevalence of relapse among people with alcohol use disorder resembles the prevalence of relapse among people with diabetes, hypertension, asthma, and other chronic health conditions. 

    8. Lack Of Transportation

    Many people with alcohol use disorder lack cars, driver’s licenses, or loved ones who are willing to drive them to and from treatment. Some of them use public transportation. 

    Unfortunately, public transportation can trigger people with alcohol problems, as they may see other passengers drinking. 

    Luckily, to ensure treatment access, many treatment centers now offer transportation services. 

    9. Comorbidity

    Some people use alcohol to self-medicate mental illnesses like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia. 

    When you develop alcohol use disorder alongside another mental illness (also called comorbidity), the conditions can make each other worse. The same situation occurs if you have alcohol use disorder alongside another substance use disorder (such as opioid use disorder).

    If you get treatment for your drinking problem but not your other mental health condition, you face a much higher risk of relapse. That’s why it’s important to look for a treatment program that specializes in comorbidity. 

    10. Unique Treatment Needs

    Like the general population, people who are alcohol-dependent often have unique needs. 

    For example, people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community may struggle to find healthcare providers they fully trust. Similarly, people with disabilities may find that many treatment centers lack accessibility. These issues can deter people from seeking treatment. 

    To learn more about alcohol use disorder treatment options, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. Our addiction treatment facilities offer comprehensive treatment services, including medical detox, therapy, and psychiatry.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Alcohol Facts and Statistics
    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help
    National Institute on Drug Abuse - How effective is drug addiction treatment?
    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - About Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT)
    United States National Library of Medicine - Perceived Barriers to Treatment for Alcohol Problems: A Latent Class Analysis

    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on November 10, 2021
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