Addiction is a chronic, progressive disease. If left untreated, it can be fatal. Even today, the stigma surrounding addiction continues to kill thousands every year. Despite this, the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence estimates that roughly 20 million people are living lives in recovery. Paving that path begins with education. National Treatment Week is dedicated to identifying the treatment gap, breaking the stigma of addiction, and encouraging clinicians to enter the field of addiction treatment.
Here are the facts about addiction and treatment in the United States:
- Nearly 20.5 million Americans suffer from a substance use disorder (SUD)
- Only 1 in 10 people with a SUD receive treatment
- More than 64,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2016
- Today, it is estimated that approximately 7.9 million adults live with co-occurring disorders
- More than 88,000 people die each year from alcohol-related use in the US
- Alcohol is the 4th leading preventable cause of death in the United States
- More than 15 million Americans suffered from an alcohol use disorder in 2015, but less than 10% received any kind of treatment.
- 2010, alcohol misuse cost the United States $249 billion
- 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose
- 2.3 million Americans suffered from opioid addiction, yet there was only enough treatment capacity to treat 1.4 million people, leaving nearly 1 million people untreated.
- The United States makes up around 4 percent of the world population, yet it uses over 80 percent of the global supply of opioids
- Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50
Physicians and Clinicians Are Needed to Battle Addiction
It often takes time for people to recognize that they are in the grips of addiction. Encouraging primary care physicians to discuss addiction is necessary for reducing its impact. Screenings play an important role in directing people to the care they need. When health professionals are trained to look for the common signs of addiction they can guide people toward the help they so desperately need. Unfortunately, many physicians still remain in the dark about addiction. It is important that we continue to train primary care physicians about addiction and certify more addiction medicine physicians to help close the treatment gap and ensure that patients receive the care they need. We must continue to encourage clinicians to enter the field of addiction treatment.
The Perception of Addiction
Only 25% of adults with mental health symptoms (such as addiction and co-occurring disorders) believe that people are sympathetic to persons with mental illness. While those of us in recovery must be accountable for our actions, but is imperative that we enable people to be honest by talking openly about addiction. Those familiar with addiction are uniquely qualified to educate the public about how to support persons with addiction and the need to reduce barriers for those seeking treatment.
Break the Stigma
How our society views addiction, treatment and recovery is rapidly evolving, though the stigma associated with addiction remains a powerful force. The options for individuals and families seeking help are plentiful, yet the standard of exceptional quality care is not yet available to all who seek it. Educating the community disrupts the stigma about drug use and spreads the message that addiction is treatable.
Recovery Doesn’t Have to Be Anonymous
Men and women do recover, and those who recover inspire others through their stories. This happens through advocacy as well as in individual acts of service. When we are open about addiction, more people find freedom. Lives change. Those in need become more likely to seek the help they deserve. Help others by sharing your own story of recovery. Don’t keep silent about addiction. Don’t be trapped by anonymity.