Solving America’s Biggest Issue

*Articles reflect the views of the author and or those quoted and do not necessarily represent the views of CCBC or The CCBC Connection.

Op-Ed Submission: Cole Blackwell, Dema Ojeil and Jon Lurz

With the heroin epidemic growing in Maryland and across the United States, as well as the number of overdose death rates on the rise, it is important that we find a way to end America’s addiction problem. It’s time to take a hard look at how we can better assist people living with addiction. Whether it’s lowering the cost to enter rehabilitation centers or identifying the most effective way to offer treatment, there are actions we can take to battle addiction.

As students enrolled in an Honors Communication course at CCBC, our mission was to research addiction and to become advocates for the issue. Our research consisted of participating in service learning, conducting surveys of CCBC students who have experienced addiction, recording on camera interviews of CCBC students who have faced addiction, and giving a presentation to our class on the issue of addiction.

We learned during this process that addiction is the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.

In our research we wanted to know what causes addiction, and what our nation can do to help our friends, families, and neighbors coping with this issue.

Addiction affects everyone, and whether people choose to believe that addiction affects them or not … everyone is susceptible to becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs. An addiction can start for a number of reasons such as someone who becomes overly dependent on painkillers after an accident or a person who was asked to try a drug recreationally but let it become a habit.

Through academic research and the surveys of people who’ve faced addiction, we’ve concluded that the biggest issues stem from the cost of facilities, the type of treatment within facilities, and the lack of understanding that many Americans have regarding addiction.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in 2014 across all jobs was $51,939.The standard cost of drug treatment programs in Maryland alone average between $10,000-$20,000, which is approximately a third of the average family income.

Given this startling reality, how are people facing addiction going to be able to afford the treatment?  They must rely on families or assistance to help pay for the costs. However, what happens when there is no one to turn to for financial help?  For programs that can facilitate the needs of people who have children or other special circumstances, the price will only increase depending upon the needs of the patient.

In our interviews, we learned that in order to get admitted into programs one must either have no money or a lot of money because it’s the only way they’ll be able to afford it. Compounding this issue, while the expenses of these programs are high, the issue also remains that the treatment in the facilities aren’t always effective.

According to the American Addiction Centers website, treatment for addiction averages relapse rates around forty to sixty percent around the nation. While relapse rates do not always mean that treatment has failed, the treatment was not sufficient enough to prevent future use.

The cost of treatment is already very high and the price of having to pay for it twice is well beyond what most Americans can afford. While the price for short term programs is much more ideal because insurance companies decided to limit the number of days they would pay for treatment (usually around 30 days), they are less effective when treating addiction. Long term treatments are more effective because they are more likely to break the cycle of dependence.

There are also issues within addiction centers such as sexual harassment, which is linked to the reason that less females are in these rehabilitation centers. The care and treatment within the centers must improve in order to provide the best possible care for the patients.

While there are organizations, such as Students Against Destructive Decisions and D.A.R.E. America, who dedicate their time and efforts to spread the word about safety and preventing the issues that can lead to addiction, we’ve learned that this isn’t enough.

From our surveys, participants stated that greater awareness is one of the best ways to spread the word of addiction and to educate the youth of its harmful effects. The problem with addiction awareness is that it isn’t often discussed enough in order to make an impact on adolescents. Those who start using drugs or alcohol at an early age are at a much higher risk of becoming addicted.

Addiction affects everyone in the nation whether it is the addict or their families.  Addiction knows no color, income level, religious ideology, etc. America needs to do a better job providing for those affected by addiction. We must be proactive to prevent addiction from the beginning.  We must also provide affordable, quality counseling that is accessible for all people in need. If we do not make these changes…then addiction will continue to rise, unnecessary death tolls will increase across the nation, and families will continue to be torn apart.

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