Study Shows Northern Virginia Adults Reticent to Seek Care for Alcohol or Drug Addiction

Inova Health System takes new steps in commitment to combat addiction and substance use disorders  

FAIRFAX, Va., Sept. 16, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Today, Inova Health System released results of a new survey that showed stigma and fear as the key barriers preventing adults in Northern Virginia from seeking treatment from addiction. The survey was launched as part of the fourth year of Act on Addiction, an awareness campaign designed to educate the community on the prevalence of addiction and substance use disorder (SUD) as well as available resources in the area. This year’s campaign focuses on creating a dialogue around addiction and broaches the important topic of stigma, taking aim at the fear that keeps many from seeking treatment.

The new survey shows that while three in 10 local adults either suffer from, or know someone who suffers from addiction, nearly half of adults (46%) would be afraid to seek care for substance use disorder and addiction out of fear of being judged. Among those locally who would be hesitant to seek treatment, the top fears listed were family members, employers/employees and friends finding out about the drug or alcohol addiction.

The survey demonstrated a strong proficiency in recognizing the signs of addiction – in fact, 95% of adults feel they know what signs to look for when it comes to addiction, like behavioral changes, changes in physical appearances and difficulty focusing. Yet only 50% of adults say they’d be comfortable having a conversation if they suspected a family member or friend was suffering from addiction.

“Despite the prevalence of addiction in our area, stigma is not only preventing important conversations from happening, but it could also be stopping people from getting potentially life-changing treatment,” said Rick Leichtweis, Ph.D., Executive Director of Inova Kellar Center. “Our work is not yet done. These findings only further drive our mission to provide those who are struggling with the resources they need to seek help and equip family members and loved ones with the tools to have those difficult conversations.”

First launched in 2019, the Act on Addiction campaign was created as part of a $16 million gift to the Inova Health Foundation from the Hitt family to provide more resources to combat addiction and to drive a community dialogue around the issue. As a next step in Inova’s work on this important issue, new leadership will be joining the team to support additional resources and treatment opportunities across the system.

“Each number in these statistics represent the life of an individual, family member, neighbor and friend in our community,” said Brett Hitt, co-chairman of HITT Construction. “Our family is proud to join Inova and the Act on Addiction campaign in this mission because no one should feel they need to suffer in silence.”