Perceived Need for Treatment vs. Actual Need
A SAMHSA study showed that of the estimated 21.1 million individuals who need treatment for drugs or alcohol use in 2004 did not receive treatment
(Department of Health and Human Services, 2005). 94.2% of these individuals felt that they did not need treatment. This is an interesting phenomenon.
Is this demonstrative of the power of denial involved with addiction? It seems important to ask how much our society contributes to this denial. How
much education have these individuals had on when treatment is necessary?
While we value treating medical problems from birth, we are not encouraged to get any sort of mental health “check up” unless major symptoms begin
to surface. 3.7% felt they needed treatment but did not make an effort. There could be many reasons for this, but the one that instantly comes to mind
is the utter hopelessness and despair that result from addiction, especially in its late stages.
Interventions would be most useful in such circumstances. 2.1% of these untreated substance abusers actually made an effort but were not able to
receive treatment for a variety of reasons. Almost half of this group named cost and insurance barriers as the block to treatment. A quarter said
they had decided they were not ready to stop using. Other major factors cited were the stigma of entering treatment, lack of knowledge on where to
go for treatment, feeling that they could handle the problems in ways other than treatment, lack of time and lack of faith in the treatment process.
These result show the reality of how difficult it is to access individuals who could benefit from help. The managed care system continues to
discourage the use of mental health benefits through discrimination against those who have been in treatment as well as through the continual
decrease in coverage for mental health treatment. This contributes to the stigma around mental health treatment.