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Addiction: Why Does It Matter?

Addiction can be devastating, but with treatment, or rehab, recovery is possible. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people who need drug and alcohol addiction treatment don’t get it.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, only about 10 percent of the people who need drug and alcohol addiction treatment receive it. That means nearly 20 million Americans age 12 and older miss out on treatment that may help them live healthy, sober lives.

Stigma sometimes prevents people from seeking drug and alcohol treatment for themselves or a loved one. About 10 percent of people who report needing addiction treatment say they don’t seek it because they are afraid it might have a negative effect on their job, while 7 percent say they don’t seek drug and alcohol addiction treatment because it might cause their neighbors and community to have a negative opinion of them.

(Karen was a high-powered attorney, and an alcoholic. John was a successful consultant and swim coach, and addicted to pain-killers.) Watch their stories, learn about their addiction treatment and see how stigma and shame kept them from seeking help sooner.

Sometimes parents delay seeking help for adolescent addicts because they aren’t sure if a teen’s drug use is addiction or just experimentation. (Watch Steve Pasierb, CEO of Partnership at, and other experts discussing the issue of treatment for addiction for teens.)

Often the biggest challenge in getting a loved one into rehab is the addict’s own inability to recognize the problem. Family members need to remember that the addict’s brain is not functioning properly—it has been damaged by addiction—and he or she is not able to make rational decisions about the need for addiction treatment.

(Get tips for how to approach a loved one about drug and alcohol treatment.)

Treatment for addiction can occur in a variety of settings. It may include medication, psychotherapy and family therapy. The goal is to remove drugs or alcohol from a person’s life, and address the physical, psychological, emotional and social issues that contributed to drug use.

Successful addiction treatment requires ongoing support and continued abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Relapse is common, but addiction experts stress that relapse does not mean failure. Recovery is still possible with additional treatment. In fact, the brain can actually repair itself and undo some of the damage caused by drug use, allowing addicts to enjoy happy, healthy lives.

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Next: What Can I Do About It?



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