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? Drugabuse.gov 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!