The U.S. Government did a huge study that covered a ton of data over 3 years, and found that 87 percent of alcoholics did not realize that they need help.
Holy smokes! Did you get that? 87 percent of the alcoholics out there do not even realize that they need treatment for alcoholism. They are oblivious to the problem.
Another 5 percent of the alcoholics saw a need for treatment, but did nothing to get help.
So only about 8 percent actually checked into treatment. Yikes.
This is a huge problem, and I for one did not quite realize the extent of it, until I saw the numbers.
Almost 90 percent of alcoholics never even get treatment. Unbelievable.
I have my own bias based on the observations that I make. My bias is actually very heavily skewed, because I work full time in a drug and alcohol rehab, and have been for about 5 years now.
So I see that people are trying to get help. I see it over and over again. What I do not see is the people who never try to get help at all.
I always knew and suspected that this group of people existed, but I had no idea how large it was until now. Most people never even seek help for addiction and alcoholism.
So what does this mean? A few things:
1) Those who are successful in achieving long term sobriety are even rarer than I once suspected. The reason for this is because for each person who tries to get sober, there about 8 or 9 other alcoholics out there who do not try. So out of a huge pool of alcoholics, only a tiny portion actually try to sober up.
And of course, we all know what the percentages are like for those who try to get sober….a large percentage do not achieve long term sobriety.
So this makes the odds all the more staggering. Long term sobriety really is a rare gift. If you are sober today, count it as a huge blessing.
2) As a society, our perception of heavy drug and alcohol use as a way of life is way out of kilter. Too many people must see it as being normal, and typical, to heavily abuse drugs and alcohol. Our collective perception of this is way off. Those who abuse drugs and alcohol surround themselves with others who do the same, and then they believe that it is normal, and that “everyone does it.” Public awareness about recovery in general must be lower than suspected.
3) There is a huge opportunity in the future to spread awareness and reach out to more addicts and alcoholics. The 12 step program is fine for what it is, but it obviously has a very limited reach. That 9 out of 10 alcoholics do not see a need for change represents an enormous untapped market of potential change in the world. Keep in mind that sobering up one alcoholic has a huge ripple effect, and it produces positive changes that go on to affect more than just their life, but the lives of others as well.
I was always under the impression that most addicts and alcoholics in the world had a basic understanding of their condition, even if they were hesitant to admit it to themselves fully. I thought that most alcoholics secretly knew that they were messed up, and that other people did not live like they did, and that they could seek help if they so chose. But apparently this is not the case.
So what can be done?
On a massive scale I think things have shifted in recent years. For example, there are now television shows about addiction and recovery that simply did not exist 10 years ago. Mass media has at least made some effort in this regard and popular television shows that highlight addiction can only help to raise our collective awareness that there is a problem.
But I’m not sure that this is ultimately the answer, because it is probably the case that any alcoholic who really needs to see those types of television shows are the ones who flip past them, stuck in denial, and convinced that the material does not apply to them.
In other words, the message is getting out through the mass media, but the alcoholics and addicts are not listening.
Still it is a start, and is certainly better than the “sweep it all under the rug” policy from decades ago.
What do you think? What can we do…
…At a personal level.
…At a community level.
…At the level of education, government, etc.
To help the 90 percent of alcoholics who do not think they need help?
Should we try to help that group? Or just focus our efforts on those who want help? (It is proven to be hard enough just helping them at times!)
What is your opinion? Please tell me in the comments!