(Photo: Flickr/Be.Futureproof)

A new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) that looks at the length of time between a substance abuser’s first use and time of entry for addiction treatment reveals that many abusers are suffering for long periods of time before seeking help.

Of the 669,000 adults who were admitted for substance abuse treatment for the first time last year, there was an elapsed time of 16.5 years for men and 13.8 years for women between the time of their first use and their starting treatment. The overall average length of time between first use and time of treatment entry was 15.6 years, but the time varied from substance to substance — alcohol had the longest lapse with 20.2 years and prescription painkillers, with 7.8 years, came in the shortest.

“This study shows that the damaging consequences of substance abuse can often be undetected or unacknowledged for many years — undermining many aspects of peoples’ health and well-being, as well as the lives of those around them,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “That is why it is essential that we work to prevent substance abuse in the first place, and in instances where it happens, identify the problem and get people the treatment they need as soon as possible so that they, and their families and friends, do not have to endure years of needless suffering.”

The study is based on data compiled from SAMHSA’s Treatment Episode Data Set, which uses reports from treatment facilities from across the country.

Source: SAMHSA

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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