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You have an addiction problem…we all do

Addiction doesn’t affect you or impact your daily life, right? After all, you’re not an addict.

The fact is, untreated addiction negatively impacts the lives of everyone in our community — usually in ways you’ve never considered. 

In my work at Meridian HealthCare, I see the negative impact every day — law enforcement officials frustrated by the rise in drug-related crimes, school administrators worried about the availability of drugs to their students, and pastors concerned about the collapse of families.

I see medical professionals exasperated by the flood of people with addictions in emergency rooms, business leaders struggling with increasing healthcare costs, and new employees who can’t pass pre-employment drug tests.

As misuse of prescription drugs and heroin is dramatically increasing, state funding for treatment is decreasing and standard health insurance policies make it difficult for a working person to get treatment.

The result is a perfect storm of more people who need treatment — and fewer people who have access to it. So the negative impact on the community increases.

Studies show that 80 percent of the nation’s adult inmates and juvenile arrestees either committed their offenses while high, stole to buy drugs, violated alcohol or drug laws, had a history of substance abuse/addiction, or shared some mix of these characteristics.

Drugs and alcohol are becoming more prevalent in all of our schools. It doesn’t matter which school district — addiction is there. In 2009, more than one third of teens said they could get prescription drugs to get high within a day; nearly one in five teens could get them within an hour.

For our community to enjoy an economic recovery, we must have a healthy workforce. Studies show that on average, one employee with an unaddressed substance abuse disorder can cost an employer $7,000 per year in lost productivity and healthcare cost.

Untreated addiction leads to workers who call off, co-workers who have to work harder or redo work to cover for the substance using co-worker, a loss in productivity, and increased healthcare costs.

Everyone’s healthcare costs are driven up by untreated addiction. Because untreated addiction sends people to the hospital. Annually, 2.3 million hospital admissions involve a substance abuse disorder — at a cost of $2 billion nationally.

So in fact, we all have an addiction problem. And it’s leading to increased crime, rising healthcare costs and a struggling economy. It’s negatively affecting the education and safety of our children and the ability of families to stay strong in the midst of day-to-day challenges.

Here’s the kicker: treatment works. Prevention programs work. So why is access to to these lifesaving opportunities being restricted?

We must work together as a society to address these issues…find ways to open up access to treatment and prevention programs…encourage recovery…and support positive life choices.

Each month, in this column I will present the specific challenges and opportunities we have regarding addiction issues.

Together, we’ll explore ways to work together, address our addiction problem and improve our quality of life.