Why Do So Many Addicts Refuse To Go To Rehab?

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Millions of people in the United States struggle with drug addiction, but not everyone who is affected is willing to get the help they need to get better. According to the National Institutes of Health, 10% of adults have drug use disorder at some point in their lives, but up to 75% never receive any form of treatment.[1] This means there are millions of Americans who could benefit from addiction treatment, but they simply aren’t getting the help they need.

Addiction is a devastating condition that rips families apart, destroys careers, and deteriorates the body. The vast consequences addiction can bring make it difficult for outsiders looking in to understand why so many addicts refuse to go to rehab and get better. After all, if any other health condition was causing suffering in all aspects of life, individuals would be desperate to get help.

Drug addiction, however, is different. It is chronic, progressive, and complex. Here are some of the most common reasons why so many addicts refuse to go to rehab despite needing help.

Denial is a Common Characteristic of Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Most people who struggle with addiction also struggle with denial. For example, an addict may promise themselves they won’t get high one day, fully believing this conviction with every bone in their body. Then, hours later, they find themselves succumbing to cravings and getting high. In this case, an addict has denied recognizing that he or she has no control over the amount or frequency at which they use substances.

When it comes to seeking addiction treatment, the same idea applies. Many addicts, when faced with the option of going to rehab, refuse to go because they don’t think their addiction is that bad. Researchers believe addiction denial is either due to an unconscious ego defense mechanism or cognitive failure. In terms of a defense mechanism, denial may take place because it is too painful or emotional for an individual to admit to their drug use. On the other hand, the idea that denial is a cognitive failure considers how addiction changes the brain and impairs decision-making and the capacity for self-insight.[2]

Rather than taking responsibility for their addictions, many addicts may place the blame on other people, places, or things. They may also rationalize or justify their drug use to make it appear as though they have everything under control. Whatever the case may be, denial is just as deadly as an addiction because it stops people from seeking the help they need.

Many Addicts Struggle With Feelings of Fear, Guilt, and Shame

It’s completely normal for people who struggle with addiction to face feelings of fear, guilt, shame, and more. Some addicts refuse to go to rehab because of these feelings. Oftentimes, feelings such as these stem from both the stigma that surrounds addiction and personal experiences.

Fear is a debilitating emotion. Some people are afraid of facing their inner demons after getting sober while others are afraid of how their loved ones will react to learning about their addiction. Guilt, on the other hand, usually stems from events that have happened in the past. A person may have been cut off by their family due to their actions, so they may feel guilty. Sometimes, this guilt can make a person feel as though they aren’t worthy of getting better, which, in turn, can block a person from being willing to accept help. Lastly, many people who battle drug addiction are overcome with shame regarding things they have done. They may feel hopeless as if there is no point in trying to turn their lives around now.

All of these feelings are powerful and serve as legitimate barriers to treatment for many people.

They May Believe Rehab Doesn’t Work

One popular misconception among some addicts who aren’t willing to go to rehab is that rehab doesn’t work. This idea is common among people who have been to rehab before but relapsed. The truth is addiction is a chronic and relapsing condition and between 40-60% of people who seek treatment for substance abuse relapse at some point in their recovery.[3]

Relapse, however, does not mean failure–and it certainly doesn’t mean that rehab doesn’t work. Relapse simply means there is some aspect of a person’s treatment and recovery plan that needs to be adjusted. It is a learning experience.

With patient dedication and a comprehensive treatment program, addiction is an entirely treatable illness.

Some Addicts Simply Don’t Want to Get Clean–Or They Aren’t Ready Yet

Another reason why some addicts refuse to go to rehab is that they don’t want to get sober–they want to keep getting high. This can be difficult to understand for someone who hasn’t battled addiction, but it is a common feeling among people who have. Addiction is a powerful and cunning disease that can consume the minds of everyone it affects. It can cause individuals to lose interest in the things they enjoy, isolate themselves from their loved ones, and fail to find any other sense of joy outside of drugs and alcohol.

Many of these individuals don’t want to get clean because they feel as though they aren’t ready to do so yet. These individuals may not have experienced the same devastating consequences as other people who struggle with addiction–yet. A person who still has their job, their home, and their relationships may not see a point in putting forth the effort to get sober. However, addiction is progressive, and without treatment, a person’s addiction will only get worse.

Find Help for an Addict Who Refuses to Go to Rehab

When someone you love refuses to go to rehab, you may be tempted to go to any length possible to convince them to get help. One of the most effective steps you can take in convincing a loved one to go to rehab is hiring an interventionist and staging an addiction intervention. An intervention is a great tool that saves the lives of addicts each and every day.

If you have a loved one who refuses to get the help they need, our team at New Jersey Addiction Intervention is here to help. Call now to get started.


  1. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/10-percent-us-adults-have-drug-use-disorder-some-point-their-lives
  2. https://neuro.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/jnp.14.1.52
  3. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery

Medically Reviewed: September 17, 2021

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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