Substance use disorders costs the U.S. more than $700 billion each year.1 That cost is the cumulative effect of lost productivity, health care costs and costs related to crime. There are also significant personal costs. Left untreated, substance use disorder can lead to chronic debilitating illnesses and premature death.

Substance use disorder also plays a significant role in accidental deaths. Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that one person dies every 53 minutes in accidents in which the driver was alcohol-impaired.2 Figures like these highlight the importance of addressing substance use issues, and sometimes that means overcoming denial.

What Is Denial?

In psychological terms, denial is described as the refusal to accept reality. A person may not recognize they are refusing to accept reality. Denial originates as a defense mechanism, albeit a negative one, that helps us to cope with trauma or stress. For example, a person experiencing financial difficulties who is in denial may splurge on unnecessary luxuries.

People experiencing a substance use disorder are often in denial. They may refuse to accept they have a problem and need help. They may also not see the danger posed to their health by their continued substance use.

Denial also manifests itself when people do not accept that they are addicted. They convince themselves that they can quit completely, or reduce their use of drugs or alcohol, if they choose to do so. This belief can persist even when they have tried and failed to stop using.

Overcoming Denial

People will not look for help unless they overcome denial, but overcoming denial is never easy. When concerned family members, friends, employers or medical personnel suggest that a person may have a problem with drugs or alcohol, that person will often refuse to accept their suggestion. People with substance use disorder may lie about the amount of drugs or alcohol they are taking. They will often argue that they are in control.

If you are trying to cope with someone with a substance use disorder, it is important not to be confrontational when suggesting that that person seems to have a problem. It may be helpful to communicate to the person that you are trying to help and only want the best for them. You should emphasize that you still care about the person, despite the continued substance use.

Being continually supportive is the best way to overcome denial. However, do not make the mistake of enabling the substance use. You can enable a person by accepting their excuses and refusal to accept responsibility, or by helping the person to get drugs or alcohol.

Getting Help

When a person eventually overcomes denial and agrees that they need help, one of the best courses of action is to start rehab. Try to find rehab facilities, like those offered by Silver Ridge, that really care about their clientele. The best rehab facilities not only provide recovery services but also place a strong emphasis on helping people to stay sober when the program is finished.