Addiction – Reaching Out for Help

reaching out for helpMost drug addicts, including alcoholics, don’t receive treatment — in fact, only about 10% receive treatment. This is astounding. Reaching out for help is difficult, but that’s not the only problem. Once an addict decides to get help, it’s hard to access treatment. Even though new insurance regulations say that insurance companies must provide coverage for addiction just the same as any other medical condition, deductibles and co-pays are so high many addicts can’t afford to enter treatment.

There are state funded programs for those who don’t have insurance or the ability to pay, but if everyone who needs treatment suddenly sought out treatment, there wouldn’t ne nearly enough specialty treatment facilities to deal with the problem. Our society has done a poor job of dealing with addiction — this is from the above linked NYT’s article:

It estimated that the annual economic toll related to alcohol is $249 billion and that the toll related to drugs is $193 billion.

The majority of people who misuse substances do not develop a use disorder, the report said. But roughly one in seven Americans — 14.6 percent of the population — are expected to develop such a disorder at some point.

Only about 10 percent of people with a substance use disorder receive any type of specialty treatment, the report said. And while more than 40 percent of people with such a disorder also have a mental health condition, fewer than half receive treatment for either.

At one time employers were using EAP services to help employees reaching out for help access treatment, but managed care has weakened most EAP programs to the point of being ineffective. There’s still widespread resistance to treating addiction as a medical concern. Many still consider addiction a personal choice and a matter of will-power — they don’t think treatment is necessary and they don’t believe it works. Few resources have gone into quality addiction treatment in the past few decades. The 90s saw the closure of treatment centers across the nation. It’s true that some facilities began to overcharge and treat patients at the highest level of care whether they needed that level of care or not, but the reaction to this problem was far too drastic.

Now that addiction treatment has improved levels of care, it’s time to create more quality, accessible specialty treatment for addiction. When addicts are reaching out for help, there should be good treatment available. I have worked in the field long enough to know that treatment works, but only if there are quality, dedicated, well-paid, educated professionals working in the field using best practices. Quality treatment that uses the practices and preaches Recovery Management principles is effective — it will be more effective if more people learned the facts about addiction.


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