Attacking Substance Abuse and Its Impact on Our Society

Substance abuse is an epidemic facing our country. Addiction to drugs, alcohol, and other substances can lead to serious physical, mental, and social consequences. Addiction can be costly both to individuals, families, and society as a whole. Despite the risk of further suffering due to addiction, however, access to quality addiction care for all is still severely limited.

The prevalence of addiction in the United States is concerning. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 21.7 million people aged 12 and older had a substance use disorder in 2018 — representing 8.5% of the population. Despite this, only 11.8 million of those individuals sought addiction treatment. This means that millions of people are living with substance abuse without receiving quality care.

The lack of addiction care for all is concerning for several reasons. Most importantly, untreated substance abuse comes with numerous negative consequences. People who struggle with substance abuse are at increased risk for physical and mental health issues, unemployment, legal trouble, relationship impairment, and homelessness. These risks can be especially damaging to youths, who are in the prime of their physical and mental development.

Moreover, addiction costs taxpayers billions of dollars every year due to preventable hospitalizations and incarceration rates. In addition, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that drug use cost the US economy $193 billion in 2017. This includes lost productivity, medical costs, and lost wages due to drug use.

Addressing this crisis will require a comprehensive effort on the part of both policymakers and the public. First and foremost, a major challenge is increasing access to affordable treatment options. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, due to underinsurance issues, tens of millions of Americans with substance abuse disorder are not able to access the treatment they need.

To combat this, more effective policies and practices should be put in place to reduce addiction’s financial burden. For example, passage of the Mental Success Act of 2018 created grants that can be used to support addiction treatment programs. Similarly, passage of the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act in 2016 led to the creation of addiction recovery centers and support programs.

It is also important to combat the stigma associated with addiction. This negative perception can prevent individuals from accessing the care and treatment they need. To combat this, policymakers and advocates can work to ensure that addiction is seen as a mental health issue, not a sign of moral failing.

Finally, policymakers should prioritize funding for addiction research. Better understanding of substance abuse and its consequences can lead to more effective treatment methods. This can help ensure that individuals receive the right care at the right time to foster successful recovery.

It is critical that individuals suffering from drug and alcohol abuse receive quality addiction care for all. By addressing the stigma surrounding addiction and providing more funding for addiction treatment, we can reduce the devastation associated with substance abuse and maintain healthier, happier communities.

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