Addiction is a many things. First and foremost, its a disease with potential debilitating mental, physical and social consequences. An estimated 23 million Americans, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (NCAADD), suffer from an addiction to drugs, alcohol or a combination of both. Research shows that among this population, less than 3 million ever receive treatment at a rehab facility. Nonetheless, recovery from alcohol and drugs is big business.
The Actual Science
The science of recovery from alcohol and drugs continues to evolve. Advances in medications, such as acamprosate, have shown to be effective in combination with counseling. Public awareness related to addiction and recover is at an all time high, which makes it less traumatic and stigmatizing for those that need help to ask for it. Among the many things that addiction encompasses, it is a treatable disease that people can and do recover from.
The Business of Addiction
Market Watch reports that there are more than 14,000 treatment centers in the United States generating profits of $35 billion, in 2014 alone. The passage of the Affordable Care Act, in which a record number of Americans will be insured for addiction treatment for the first time, will likely double or triple industry profits. This has led many experts to take serious inventory of how the rehab industry actually treats issues of alcohol and drug abuse recovery.
“I don’t know of any other life-threatening illness where it’s controversial if you should have a college education to treat it, but it has been in the addiction field,” says University of New Mexico, Professor Emeritus William R. Miller, in the documentary, The Business of Recovery.
Even with professional treatment, recovering from addiction is difficult at best. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that as many as 60 percent of those that receive treatment for addiction will relapse. This is comparable to other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma. The difference, however, is that there are evidence based approaches to treating other chronic diseases that the field of addiction recovery simply does not have.
“The vast majority of addiction treatment,” writes Dan Munro, a contributor at Forbes.com, “is based either partially or entirely on the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), but is there scientific evidence to support AA as clinical treatment? Should addiction treatment centers make enormous profits by simply funneling substance abusers into the free fellowship of AA?”
The Facts and Statistics Relating to Alcohol and Drug Abuse Paint a Bleak Picture
- Approximately 88,000 people die each year from alcohol related causes, making it the fourth leading cause of preventable death in the country.
- More than 10 percent of children live with a parent struggling with alcoholism, according to a study conducted in 2012.
- From 2001 to 2014, overdose deaths as a result of prescription drugs more than doubled.
- Overdoses on heroin and prescription opioids have become the leading causes of unintentional death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
12 Step Support Groups
There is little doubt that 12-step groups, such as AA and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), have helped an untold number of people recover from drugs alcohol. The best estimates are that these fellowships help, on average, five to 10 percent of those that attend, which for some experts is problematic. Addiction Expert Dr. Lance Dodes, a graduate of Harvard Medical School and director of the alcoholism treatment unit at Harvard’s McLean Hospital, shared his thoughts in The Business of Recovery.
“It is helpful for 5-10% and that’s a good thing. That’s 5-10% of people who are being helped by A.A. – it’s a lot better than zero percent – but it shouldn’t be thought of as the standard of treatment because it fails for most people – for the vast majority of people.”