While 10% of the population suffers from a substance use disorder at some point in their lives, 75% of them never receive professional treatment.[1] This means that a large majority of people who need help for addiction, never access the resources they need. If you know someone who suffers from a drug or alcohol abuse problem, you might have wondered why they don’t get help for their addiction–and how you can change their mind.

Watching your loved one suffer from addiction without seeking help can be heartbreaking, nerve-wracking, and even infuriating. While you just want them to recover, they continue to go farther down a path of addiction, mental distress, and hardships. Even though it seems like they are purposefully refusing support, people often have reasons for avoiding treatment.

The top 4 reasons people don’t seek help for addiction include:

1. Denial

Denial is the biggest reason people avoid attending addiction treatment. When you suffer from an addiction, your mind is clouded with substances. All you can think about is getting your next fix, because of the mental turmoil you are facing at the moment.

To put it simply, drugs and alcohol seem like the solution to people who have a substance use disorder. Whether they are attempting to numb emotions related to trauma or soothe symptoms of an untreated mental health condition, drugs and alcohol provide them with temporary relief. This is why people who suffer from addiction can remain in denial about how their substance abuse is affecting their life.

When someone is in denial about their addiction, they feel like there is no reason to seek treatment. Sometimes the best way to help someone with addiction denial is to stage an intervention.

2. Fear of Withdrawal

Another huge barrier to treatment for struggling addicts and alcoholics is the fear of withdrawal. When you are addicted to a substance, your body becomes dependent on it. This means that stopping the use of that drug will cause symptoms of withdrawal.

Oftentimes, withdrawal symptoms are uncomfortable and painful. Sometimes, the symptoms can be life-threatening without proper medical attention. If your loved one has experienced withdrawal without medical treatment, they could be avoiding rehab out of fear of having to go through that again.

Thankfully, addiction treatment centers have detox programs that provide clients with medications and treatments that lessen their symptoms. This makes the withdrawal process easier and more comfortable. Unfortunately, some people are not aware of this, causing them to avoid receiving the help they need.

3. Lack of Insurance

If your loved one does not have health insurance, that could be another reason they are avoiding treatment. Addiction treatment can be costly, with some 30-day programs costing up to $10,000. While insurance does cover substance abuse recovery services, people without insurance are left wondering how they could ever afford the help they need.

While avoiding treatment because of the cost is a valid reason, doing so could cost you your life, and rehab is 100% worth the cost. Some drug and alcohol rehab centers offer sliding-scale fees and scholarships to people who cannot afford treatment. If this is the reason your loved one is refusing help, making them aware of their payment options can provide them with the motivation they need to make a change.

4. Shame

Lastly, another reason people don’t seek help for their addiction is feelings of shame.

The general attitude around addiction and the people who suffer from it is not positive. Many people view addiction as a moral failing or a weakness due to the stigma surrounding addiction. People struggling with substance abuse issues are aware of this and it causes them to attempt to hide their problems.

Because they are dealing with shame, they do not want to attend an addiction treatment program and allow everyone around them to realize they suffer from a substance use disorder. They are afraid of being ostracized, judged, or shunned because of their addiction, which only causes them to suffer in silence.

How to Help Someone Who Won’t Seek Help for Their Addiction

If your loved one suffers from addiction and is refusing treatment, there are things you can do to help. Making them realize they need professional help is not easy, often requiring patience, unconditional support, and the ability to uphold strong boundaries. However, it can be done when you are educated on the disease of addiction and armed with the right tools.

The first step in helping someone who won’t seek help for addiction is becoming educated on addiction and how it affects people. This will help you learn how to interact with your loved one with compassion and tact rather than causing them to become defensive.

The next step would be providing them with resources. Consider taking them to addiction support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery. Immersing them in the recovery community could allow them to realize it is possible to overcome the disease of addiction and live a fulfilling life without substances.

Other resources you could provide them with include:

  • Visits with doctors to talk about how their health is being affected by their substance abuse
  • Individual therapy to address underlying mental health conditions, trauma, or anything else that could be causing their addiction
  • Tours of addiction treatment centers to show them that rehab is not something to fear
  • Meetings with people you know who have completed a drug and alcohol rehab program to provide them with a physical example of how treatment works
people dont seek help for addiction

Get The Care You Need and Deserve

Woburn Addiction Treatment is a leader in the addiction treatment field, with proven success in facilitating long-term recovery. Our team of top clinical & medical experts specializes in treating addiction coupled with mental illness, ensuring that each person receives individualized care. Call us – we’re available 24/day, 7 days/week.

(781) 622-9190

Find Help for an Addicted Loved One Today

If you or a loved one suffers from a substance use disorder, help is available. Dealing with drug or alcohol addiction can take a toll on your mental and physical health, social life, career, and finances, but recovery is possible for anyone who wants it. Woburn Addiction Treatment offers services corresponding to Levels of Treatment as defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). ASAM Criteria are used to assist in placing individuals in the proper level of care at intake and to shift treatment per individual progress. The addiction treatment programs we provide at our treatment center near Boston, Massachusetts, include Day Treatment, Intensive Outpatient (IOP), and Outpatient (OP) program options. Contact Woburn Addiction Treatment today for more information on our highly individualized drug and alcohol rehab program.


  1. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/10-percent-us-adults-have-drug-use-disorder-some-point-their-lives
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