New CASA Columbia Study Reports Inadequate Treatment for Addiction

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA Columbia) released a new five-year national study on addiction treatment, finding that despite overwhelming evidence that addiction is a disease, treatment options don’t follow the same methodologies that we currently use to treat other diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart conditions. Treatments for each of these diseases of course differ, but doctors still use the same process of evidence-based diagnosis followed by appropriate treatment.
Although addiction to nicotine, alcohol and other substances affects over 40 million Americans--more than cancer, diabetes and heart conditions--most medical professionals aren’t qualified to treat addiction. The study found youth who begin smoking, drinking, or using other drugs before the age of 21 are at higher risk for addiction. In 96.5 percent of cases, addiction originated with substance use before the age of 21 when the brain is still developing. Via the press release:

“The report finds that while doctors routinely screen for a broad range of health problems like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, they rarely screen for risky substance use or signs of addiction and instead treat a long list of health problems that result, including accidents, unintended pregnancies, heart disease, cancers and many other costly conditions without examining the root cause.”

In a press release, Susan Foster, CASA Columbia’s Vice President and Director of Policy Research and Analysis adds that a lack of national addiction treatment standards are to blame,

“Right now there are no accepted national standards for providers of addiction treatment. There simply is no other disease where appropriate medical treatment is not provided by the health care system and where patients instead must turn to a broad range of practitioners largely exempt from medical standards. Neglect by the medical profession has resulted in a separate and unrelated system of care that struggles to treat the disease without the resources or knowledge base to keep pace with science and medicine.”

Report Highlights

  • 40 million Americans ages 12 and older (16 percent) have the disease of addiction involving nicotine, alcohol or other drugs, a disease affecting more Americans than heart conditions, diabetes or cancer; another 80 million people are risky substance users – using tobacco, alcohol and other drugs in ways that threaten health and safety.
  • About 7 in 10 people with diseases like hypertension, major depression and diabetes receive treatment; only about 1 in 10 people who need treatment for addiction involving alcohol or other drugs receive it while the number receiving treatment for nicotine is not even known.
  • Addiction treatment facilities and programs are not adequately regulated or held accountable for providing treatment consistent with medical standards and proven treatment practices.
  • In 2010 only $28 billion was spent to treat the 40 million people with addiction. In comparison, the United States spent:
  • $44 billion to treat diabetes which affects 26 million people;
  • $87 billion to treat cancer which affects 19 million people;
  • $107 billion to treat heart conditions which affect 27 million people.

The report’s downloadable slides offer more in-depth content in a format that’s easier to get through than the full report.

juvenile-justice-system_David-BackesDavid Backes joined the Prichard Communications team in mid-2012 as an account executive with a focus on social media and digital communications. David began his career as a website copywriter and quickly transitioned into the marketing and advertising side of online communications. Always striving to add to his digital toolbox, David now has several years’ experience in social media marketing, search engine optimization, marketing automation, web design and development, and online usability testing and analysis.
*Photo at top from Wikipedia

Updated: July 10 2012