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A study of people admitted for substance abuse treatment for the first time has found they waited an average of 15.6 years to seek help from the time they initially used the substance.

HealthDay reports the study of 669,000 adults found men waited longer to seek help—an average of 16.5 years—compared with women, who waited an average of 13.8 years. The findings were released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA).

People who abused alcohol waited an average of 20.2 years to seek treatment, compared with 7.8 years for people who abused prescription painkillers.

“This study shows that the damaging consequences of substance abuse can often be undetected or unacknowledged for many years—undermining many aspects of people’s health and well-being, as well as the lives of those around them,” SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in a news release. “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.”

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