According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMSHA), the time between the start of substance use and the first admission for getting treatment is longer for men than it is for women. The average length of time was 16.5 years for men and 13.8 years for women, according to SAMSHA. Researchers found that the average length of time between first use and first treatment was longest for alcohol (20.2 years) and the shortest for prescription pain medication (7.8 years).
Reasons Why People Wait to Seek Help
As you can imagine there are many reasons behind the length of time before someone seeks help. Some of these include:
- Stigma – The illness of addiction carries a stigma. The public eye sees it as a weakness in character rather than a psychological illness. For instance, a recent study revealed that the stigma of an addiction carries more weight than the stigma of mental illness. It appears that many people believe that an addiction is an indication of a personal flaw. This is one barrier that frequently stands in the way of seeking addiction help.
- Denial – When an individual is in the throes of addiction, he or she may strongly feel the need to hide it. In many ways, hiding an addiction includes hiding it from oneself, which is the denial that accompanies this illness.
- Fear – Sometimes, men and women who suffer from addiction can recognize their need for an external source to help stop the addiction cycle, but don’t because of fear. And there are many fears that can come with contemplating getting help, such as fear of legal consequences, such as criminal charges and other forms of legal punishment that may come with admitting to the illegal use of certain drugs. Other fears include the fear of change, fear of the unknown, and fear of not making it.
As mentioned above, these factors affect men differently than it does for women. For instance, the label of being an addict seems to be affecting women in recent years. According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 2.7 million women in the United States, many of whom do not receive treatment because their social roles as mothers and nurturers.
Men Take Longer in Seeking Addiction Help
Yet, despite these numbers, it appears that on average men take longer in seeking the addiction help they need. And it’s not just gender, but the type of substance also plays a role in how soon a person reaches out for help. Many men and women struggling with addiction may finally call for support when they realize that they won’t be able to do it on their own. They recognize that they themselves don’t have the inner strength or willpower to end their substance use.
When it comes down to it, the decision to finally get addiction help is a choice that each person needs to make for themselves. And it is a process that is different for everyone, depending upon their own unique circumstances. In fact, years may pass between the time that someone recognizes that they need to get help and when they actually pick up the phone for assistance. And even then, a person might decide to leave their rehab facility and return to using. The initial process of getting support can be a challenging one, but those who overcome that initial hurdle are often glad they did.