Very Few Are Aware of Lifesaving U.S. Substance Abuse Helpline

The U.S. substance abuse helpline is largely underused by Americans because most are not aware of it.

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Millions of Americans suffer in silence with drug addiction, as most of them are not aware of a free, national helpline, a new survey finds. The study found that the U.S. government’s toll-free hotline number that offers free referral services to substance abusers looking for treatment is getting little attention.

After the hospitalization of a famous singer Demi Lovato due to a heroin overdose in July, researchers found that a lot was written about her substance abuse, but not about the toll-free helpline.

A week after Lovato’s heroin overdose, experts analyzed over 42,000 news stories, over 972,000 tweets, and more than 14 million searches mentioning Lovato’s drug abuse. Only 216 news stories, 258 tweets, and 8,000 searches have mentioned the addiction helpline. By contrast, the suicide helpline was regularly publicized, the team points out.

Researchers hope their study, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine, will help change things.

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) fund and manage the toll-free hotline number.

John Ayers, the associate professor in the division of infectious diseases and global public health at the University of California, San Diego, said “1-800-662-HELP is a place for those needing help to navigate through a sea of complex treatment options to arrive at the choice that best meets their needs, finances and location,”

People with drug addiction, who call 1-800-662-HELP (4357), are provided with a list of centers in their location that can meet their treatment as well as financial needs.

According to the researchers of SAMHSA, the toll-free helpline received nearly 68,000 calls per month in the first quarter of 2018. And in 2017, more than 815,000 people called the U.S. substance abuse helpline.

Ayers further explained that he wants to see a solution when he picks up a newspaper and read about tragedies related to drug epidemic in the U.S.

He said, “Drug addiction is curable.” And the first step is to understand that you need help, which is possible simply by calling the toll-free U.S. substance abuse helpline.

The substance abuse hotline, 800-662-HELP, provides 24/7 free and confidential treatment referral in the U.S. It is a place where drug addicts can get social support.

Although the toll-free helpline can be effective, if it is like other referral services, only a few of the callers connect with the treatment services.

One of the researchers, Dr. Harshal Kirane, said resources are not readily available and there is an on-going stigma attached to the addiction treatment center. He said the media should promote the substance abuse helpline number. He further added that the services and the demand for treatment would increase if more people come to know about the helpline.

The lifesaving hotline number can also refer drug addicts to the centers that charge a fee or accept Medicare or Medicaid. People using private health insurance are recommended contacting their insurer for a list of health care providers and services.