Zig Ziglar said, “Your attitude determines your altitude.” While I’m not big on cliché’s, when it comes to someone with an alcohol use disorder seeking treatment, Mr. Ziglar was right. A study published in November of 2015 (the study is here: nihms673550) found that the single biggest barrier to a person entering treatment of alcohol use disorder was a person’s attitude about treatment. While the study did find that a small subset also had several other barriers such as financial, comorbidity, and structural issues (lack of transportation, lack of treatment resources), the study found that both the majority and small subset groups’ attitudes about treatment were by far the biggest barriers.

Further, the study found that the two (2) biggest attitudes that presented barriers for both groups were: 1) “I should be strong enough to handle it on my own;” and, 2) “I thought the problem would get better by itself.” What these ideas/attitudes indicate is external resources are not useful; that the “self” is bigger than the addiction. However, this type of thinking is at the root of Addiction. That is, people often believe that they are in control of a spiraling problem when in fact the problem controls them. In order to address these attitudes towards seeking treatment, the authors of the study recommended employing Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) protocols coupled with Motivational Interviewing to address these barriers.

As a treatment provider, it’s important to recognize that people’s attitudes often do in fact determine the outcome of their actions. If a person simply believes that treatment is useless, there is no reason for that person to seek it out. I believe that part of my role is to create awareness of the adverse consequences of an addiction and to educate people about the value of all forms of Addiction Treatment. There is value in treating an addiction; however, as the study indicates, there is still stigma about that value and of accepting an addiction. Because it does appear that attitudes are the biggest barrier to treatment, I am hopeful that Addiction will be beaten because attitudes can be changed.

Please check out the study and pass this information along as you’d like. Changing negative attitudes is pretty much everyone’s responsibility.