Introduction: Clinical practice shows that addict patients tend to seek attention from health services after a long period of time, and that their relatives do not seek early medical care, despite knowledge of the addiction. Objectives: To determine the time elapsed between the beginning of patients' substance use and when they first seek specialized medical care (TC) and the time elapsed between relatives perceiving the substance use and when they first seek specialized medical care (TSAM); also, to identify the factors associated with seeking medical care earlier. Design: Observational, descriptive study. A structured survey, validated by experts in the field of addiction, was applied to 113 family members responsible for patients addicted to psychoactive substances in 5 hospitals in the city of Lima. Results: Patients seek specialist medical care for the first time 11.22 years after commencement of substance use, and family members take to 4.69 years to seek medical care from when they perceive of the substance use. Female gender, the concept of addiction as a disease and not waiting for the patient's decision before seeking medical care reduce TC and TSAM in the case of most substances. Conclusions: Patients addicted to psychoactive substances turn to health services only after long TC and TSAM; moreover, the delay in seeking medical care on the part of relatives means that patients continue to use substances.