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Chemical Dependency Treatment costs too much, doesn’t help people, and takes county and state tax dollars. Why are we doing this?

There are few investments that have the kind of return on investment that chemical dependency treatment does. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) studies in the United States and its counterpart in Great Britain have done many studies about the cost effectiveness of treatment. If you consider the narrowest scope, there is a four to one return on investment. Looking at costs for all of the physical health problems, mental health problems, child protection issues and foster care placement, arrest/prosecution and incarceration costs of the criminal justice system, social welfare subsidies, and loss of tax revenue by people disabled by chemical dependency the return on investment skyrockets to 18 or 19 dollars back for every dollar invested. These larger numbers look at cost offsets for the family members, housing, jails, schools, and all sorts of ripple effects of untreated chemical dependency. Each untreated addict directly affects four to fifteen other people. If your investment adviser talked to you about that type of return, you’d doubt them, so I encourage you to look up some of these studies for yourself.

“It doesn’t help people” is a different issue, and not accurate. Addiction treatment is held to an entirely different standard than are some other areas of health care. For example, some mental health conditions are known to be chronic and relapsing disorders, as are some physical health conditions like diabetes and asthma. If we treat any of these, we know we need patient compliance with the medication and lifestyle changes, and still will not have a patient free of the disease. Even though compliance for high blood pressure medication is considered easier than staying sober, there is a similar compliance rate. A reasonable goal is harm reduction, reducing the usage, and the number of days of usage, until someone is ready and able to be entirely sober. The methadone maintenance programs nationally have a retention rate of 83% at the end of a year. It may take several treatment attempts for someone to achieve a year of sobriety. Treatment does help whether court ordered or voluntary. Learn more now by watching WYNK flash videos and read online by going to SAMHSA, NIAAA and NIDA websites.

by: Lois Cochrane Schlutter, Ph.D. L.P.

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