Why Are So Many Americans Struggling with Substance Addiction?
A study carried out by Colombia University found 40 million Americans aged 12 or more met the guidelines for drug addiction. Researchers also discovered that a further 80 million used substances in a way that could harm themselves or others. This is more than the number of people affected by cancer, heart disease, and diabetes combined. Given that heart disease, cancer and diabetes kill more people than all other diseases, these figures are alarming.
Despite the prevalence of drug addiction in America, very few people receive the treatment they need to fight their addiction. Drugs have long been criminalized by the state, so many people with drug problems end up in the prison system rather than receiving the help they need to get their life back on track.
Cancer, heart disease, and other serious illnesses receive huge amounts of funding. Around 70% of people with high blood pressure receive medical help whereas drug addicts are largely ignored and forgotten.
There are plenty of treatment options out there, but many are not available to those in need. The addiction treatment industry is highly lucrative. Rehabilitation centers charge thousands of dollars for an in-patient treatment program. Celebrities have no issue with paying the fee to attend rehab for an opiate addiction, but ordinary people can't afford to go into rehab. Their options are far more limited and usually confined to non-residential treatment programs, which are less effective.
Many patients don't have access to the medications they need. Dealing with withdrawal symptoms is the main focus of most drug addiction treatment programs. Withdrawal symptoms can be extremely difficult to cope with. Drug use causes changes to the brain, so when the user stops using the drug, symptoms can be very unpleasant.
Heroin withdrawal is particularly difficult to cope with. Symptoms include sweating, insomnia, cramps, anxiety, agitation, nausea and vomiting. Medication can alleviate these symptoms, but many patients don't have access to the medications they need. Methadone, Naltrexone, and Acamprosate are the most common medications used to ease cravings and prevent future relapse, but these require attending a dispensary daily. Newer medications are more effective and taken sublingually, yet they are not widely available.
Other treatment options such as Ibogaine are not licensed for use in the United States and the only way to get Ibogaine is to travel over the border into Mexico, where you can visit the Experience Ibogaine facility. Ibogaine has been proven to be highly effective in helping to treat the withdrawal symptoms of heroin and other drugs, but most users won't have access to an Ibogaine treatment facility.
Look to the Dutch
The United States is not winning the war against drug addiction. The only way to change things is to try tackling the problem in a different way. The Netherlands has a big drug problem, but their drug rehabilitation program is far more successful because they view drug addiction as a health problem rather than a criminal one. Addicts have access to all the help they need. Maybe the United States should look to the Netherlands for inspiration.