In trying to promote my book and start a conversation about how insurance companies cover addiction treatment, I was a guest on The Addicted Mind Podcast and The Addiction Podcast.

Below are the links. I'd appreciate your listening and commenting on what I've said and joining the conversation.

Mary Burns

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  • Mary Burns

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

Drug addiction is at crisis levels in this country. Why is this so? After going through the journey of drug addiction with my son, I think that this crisis might be due to the lack of a treatment “roadmap” for addiction. By treatment roadmap I mean that there isn’t a treatment protocol that is used that has proven to work for most of those who want to recover from substance use disorder.

I will use breast cancer as an example. I have never had breast cancer but have know quite a few persons who have been diagnosed and treated for this illness. Once a person is diagnosed with breast cancer, there is certain protocol or “roadmap” that is followed to treat the cancer. Once the type of breast cancer is determined, the cancer is removed either by mastectomy or lumpectomy. Once the removal surgery is done, the individual will most likely receive chemotherapy. The chemotherapy is tailored to the cancer’s stage, the person’s genetics and the location of the cancer in the breast. Once chemotherapy is completed, many individuals go onto receive radiation. Again, the radiation is tailored to the individual’s cancer. After radiation some individuals will also take Tamoxifen for a number of years to keep the cancer from returning. As you can see, there is a general order or “roadmap” that is followed by oncologists to treat this disease and yet the treatment is tailored to the individual depending on the specific type of breast cancer.

Why isn’t there this type of roadmap for addiction? Why are some people required by their insurance companies to go through outpatient treatment first while some insurance companies will immediately give inpatient treatment? Why do some insurance companies cover only a 30-day stay at an inpatient treatment facility and others a longer stay? states that “research indicates that most addicted individuals need at least 3 months in treatment to significantly reduce or stop their drug use and that the best outcomes occur with longer durations of treatment.” Three months of what type of treatment? Three months of inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment or a combination of both? Which option will give the best outcome?

There is a great variation on the types of treatment that an insurance company will pay for? Why is this and why is each individual not given treatment that has been proven to work for the majority of people trying to recover from addiction? Do we even know what types of treatment works best for most people in trying to attain recovery and in what order an individual should go through these steps? Why are people forced to navigate through the maze of treatment options alone? Would this lack of a roadmap for treatment be tolerated for any other disease?

I think the answer to that has to do with the stigma that has surrounded addiction and the fact that many people see the disease as a lack of moral character. We now know that addiction is considered a disease of the brain. The American Medical Association defines addiction as a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence. People with addiction (severe substance use disorder) have an intense focus on using a certain substance (s), such as alcohol or drugs, to the point that it takes over their life1. If the American Medical Association considers addiction a disease, it’s time we began to treat it like one.

My book clearly shows the reader of the shortcomings of addiction treatment. The treatment that my son was given, thus what the insurance company would pay for, was not what my son needed. He needed long-term, intensive treatment as soon as he asked for help. We need to determine what works best for most individuals. We need a roadmap for recovery!


  • Mary Burns

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

There are a couple of reasons as to why I decided to share my story. First, my son Eric always told me that he wanted to write a book about his struggle. Of course, when he said that in high school, I don’t know if he really knew how to explain his struggle. So I wrote this book to honor his memory and to give him a voice.

Second, I want people to understand how difficult it is to deal with mental illness and addiction from the perspective of the person that struggles and those who love them. It is difficult to understand that hardship if you haven’t experienced it personally. Those who have read my story so far have come away with a completely different perspective on these two issues.

Lastly, I would like this book to bring attention to the shortcomings of present model for addiction treatment. Addiction needs to be treated as a cancer is treated – treatment needs to be immediate, aggressive and long-term. Many insurance companies require the addicted individual to begin with the least invasive method, which is often outpatient treatment; which for many is ineffective. After this initial step a person’s insurance company may pay for a

30-day inpatient program. Both types of treatment are not effective for many who want to attain and maintain recovery.

Addiction is a disease of the brain and it takes longer than 30-days for the brain to heal. After my experience with my son, I believe that treatment should last at least 9-12 months. It should begin with intensive inpatient treatment for 3-4 months and then through a step-down program an individual continues treatment with the help of trained professionals while increasing their independence so that they can become productive members of society. Controlled environments, such as halfway houses, should part of this step-down process and intensive outpatient treatment should be the last step in this process not the first.

Ineffective treatment may be part of the reason that we have such an opioid epidemic in this country. We were told when Eric was in his first rehab that the relapse rate for a person with an opioid addiction was ninety percent, and yet, he was still sent home. People need to stop being required to go through this revolving door of treatment. If proper treatment was given immediately to those who want help, maybe we would have more people being able to maintain recovery and the relapse rate of 90% for an opioid addiction would be reduced along with deaths that we see from this crisis. I will always wonder if my son would still be here today if he had been given immediate, aggressive and long-term treatment as soon as he asked me for help.

Those of us who watch helplessly as someone struggles with addiction or who have lost someone to this horrible disease need to start to speak up and demand change. I want this book to begin that conversation.

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