While few of its individual findings will come as much of a surprise to seasoned professionals in the addiction field, a newly issued report from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA Columbia) packs a punch in its assault on current substance use treatment practice.
Perhaps the most stinging, if still not stunning, comment in the report is its statement that the medical profession is largely absent from addiction practice and that the counseling professionals who deliver most of the treatment services to patients are often subject to few or no qualification standards.
“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,” CASA Columbia vice president Susan Foster said in a news release issued this week.
CASA this week released a mammoth report of nearly 600 pages, entitled Addiction Medicine: Closing the Gap Between Science and Practice. The research team led by Foster relied on numerous data sources that included but was not limited to five national data sets, a survey of more than 1,100 members of addiction treatment organizations, and a survey of 360 individuals in recovery. Grants from several charitable foundations financed the five-year project.
Here are some of the findings CASA is highlighting from its report:
· Only about 1 in 10 individuals who need treatment for addiction are receiving it, compared with 7 of 10 individuals with chronic illnesses such as diabetes and depression who are receiving treatment for those conditions.
· A total of $28 billion was spent in the United States in 2010 to treat addiction, an illness that affects 40 million people. By comparison, $107 billion was spent that year to treat heart disease, which affects 27 million people.
· Only 2 cents of every dollar spent on addiction-related costs pays for treatment and prevention efforts, as the vast majority of spending focuses on the health consequences of substance abuse.
· Addiction treatment remains largely disconnected from mainstream medical practice. The report cites research data showing that only 29% of individuals who visited a general medical practitioner in the past year were ever asked about alcohol or other drug use.