Common Roadblocks to Seeking Treatment

In 2002, about 6 million persons with illicit drug dependence or abuse did not receive specialty treatment for their illicit drug problem. Among these untreated illicit drug abusers, only 6 percent perceived an unmet need for treatment.

In 2002, an estimated 17 million persons with alcohol dependence or abuse did not receive specialty treatment for their alcohol problem. Among these untreated alcohol abusers, only 4.5 percent perceived an unmet need for treatment.

Among those who perceived an unmet need for treatment, the most common reasons reported for not receiving treatment were not being ready to stop using the substance and the cost of treatment.

Respondents were also asked whether they had received treatment for a substance use problem. In these analyses, an individual was defined as receiving treatment only if he or she reported receiving specialty treatment for alcohol or illicit drugs in the past year. Specialty treatment is delivered at alcohol or drug rehabilitation facilities (inpatient or outpatient), hospitals (inpatient only), and mental health centers. Persons are classified as needing treatment for a substance problem if they were dependent on or abused a substance or received specialty substance treatment in the past 12 months.

Respondents who had not received specialty treatment were asked whether there was any time during the past 12 months when they felt they needed treatment or counseling for their alcohol or drug use but did not receive it. Those who answered that they felt they needed treatment ("perceived unmet treatment need") were then asked to identify the reasons they did not receive treatment.

Illicit Drug Treatment Need

In 2002, about 7.7 million persons aged 12 or older were classified as needing treatment for an illicit drug problem. Of these, 1.4 million (about 18 percent) received specialty treatment in the past year. The rate of treatment need for an illicit drug problem was approximately twice as high for males as for females. The rate was highest among young adults aged 18 to 25. Among racial/ethnic groups, American Indians or Alaska Natives and blacks had the highest rate of treatment need. Among the approximately 6 million persons with untreated illicit drug dependence or abuse, only 6 percent (362,000) reported perceived unmet treatment need.

Alcohol Treatment Need

In 2002, almost 18.6 million persons aged 12 or older were classified as needing treatment for an alcohol problem. Of these, 1.5 million (about 8 percent) received specialty treatment in the past year. The rate of treatment need for alcohol problems was approximately twice as high for males as for females, and the rate of treatment need for young adults aged 18 to 25 was approximately three times higher than in other age groups. Among racial/ethnic groups, American Indians or Alaska Natives had the highest rate of treatment need. Among the 17 million persons with untreated alcohol dependence or abuse, only 4.5 percent (761,000) reported perceived unmet treatment need.

Reasons for Not Receiving Specialty Treatment

Among the 362,000 persons who perceived an unmet treatment need for an illicit drug use problem in the past year, the most common reasons given for not receiving treatment were not being ready to stop using illicit drugs (39 percent) and thinking the cost of treatment would be too high (37 percent). Twenty-six percent reported that the stigma associated with receiving treatment was a reason for not receiving treatment, and 20 percent reported that they did not know where to get treatment.

Among the 761,000 persons who perceived an unmet need for alcohol treatment in the past year, nearly half (49 percent) reported that they were not ready to stop using alcohol. Approximately 40 percent reported that the cost of treatment contributed to their not receiving treatment. Twenty-four percent reported concerns regarding stigma associated with seeking treatment, and 12 percent reported they did not know where to receive treatment.