Why we need to rethink drug addiction treatment in America

It’s estimated that 115 people per day die in the US per day from opioid overdoes. The economic burden for opioid abuse alone costs the United States $78 billion per year. If you factor in alcohol and illicit drug use that number totals around $740 billion per year. Needless to say, this is a significant epidemic in American society that currently lacks a practical solution. 10% of American adults have a substance use disorder that they struggle with yet 75% of them never receive any form of treatment.

 

Removing the Stigma of Addiction

Much of the reluctance from those suffering from substance abuse disorders to seek treatment stems from the stigma associated with drug and alcohol abuse. Many view addicts as lacking moral character and those with substance abuse issues often experience deep-seeded feelings of shame and guilt. Emerging science and research has pointed to a number of physiological and genetic differences that play a significant factor is a likelihood of developing a substance abuse disorder. In addition to epigenetics and physiological traits, childhood trauma and painful life experiences also play a significant role in someone’s likelihood to abuse drugs or alcohol. Shaming or stigmatizing addicts fails to offer a solution to the drug epidemic and only seems to serve as a deterrent from seeking the treatment they need.

 

Addiction Treatment

 

Many options exist for those that do decide to seek treatment. Depending on the severity of the substance abuse issue, there are different levels of care best suited for the condition. The first step for someone who has been abusing drugs intensively or for an extended period is typically detox. Detoxing from drugs that the body has become adapted to can be a dangerous process which is why this form of treatment usually takes place in a medical setting for a short term of a few days to a week. In-patient or residential treatment is the next level of care where someone usually spends 30+ days living on-site at a facility where they abstain from drugs and alcohol and receive some form of counseling along with a wide range of complementary treatments depending on the facility. These types of facilities often come with a very high price tag, making them inaccessible for a large part of the population who either can’t afford them or don’t have insurance that will cover treatment. An outpatient rehab may be an alternative for someone who requires a lower level of care and who doesn’t have the time to spend living on-site for a month-long residential program. Outpatient rehabs allow you to live at home and attend to work or family obligation while still receiving treatment.

 

Methods for Treating Substance Abuse

Conventional – Medication Assisted Treatment

The current existing model for treating drug addiction involves the use of psychotropic pharmaceutical drugs that activate much of the same circuitry as illicit street drugs. These drugs are often seen as a much safer alternative to street drugs, however still only really serve as a band-aid for a deeper underlying condition. With the rise of medical assisted treatment (MAT) (MAT) pharmaceuticals have taken the forefront of drug addiction treatment. Many addicts come into therapy in bad shape and pharmaceuticals can be incredibly useful in adding detox, and to help get someone back to an even baseline; however the long-term consumption of these substances can create mental and physical imbalances, and come with many side effects.

 

Holistic – Whole Person Treatment

Addiction can be viewed as a complex disorder that affects the mind, body, and spirit. It is in many ways the symptom of a deeper underlying condition. A holistic drug rehab model that treats the whole-person may be the best option for addressing the multitude of factors that contribute to addiction by offering a wide range of tools that treat the whole person vs. isolating symptoms.  Holistic drug treatment combines traditional interventions and modalities for treating substance abuse disorders and combines them with alternative and complementary therapies that help heal underlying physical health conditions, help reduce stress and help reestablish balance to the mind and body. There a number of physiological issues that can contribute to addiction such as nutrient deficiencies, inflammation, imbalanced gut bacteria, food allergies, and heavy metal toxicities. Holistic addiction treatment looks to correct these issues which in turn helps to establish a more balanced mood state.

 

The need for more resources.

Taking measure to offer education, prevention tools, and affordable treatment options need to be made a bigger priority in the US. The statistics regarding drug abuse in American are shocking, yet there is still a large part of the population that remain unaware of the severity of an issue that is occurring right in their own backyard.  Substance abuse is an issue that affects all walks of life and those suffering with it are not merely a “junkie,” “alcoholic,” or “crackhead,” but possibly a neighbor, friend, or loved one. Shame and guilt will never take the place of effective measures for treating and preventing drug abuse.

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