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Substance abuse disorders are quiet, careful killers. They are disorders that force our way of living to center solely around the addictive substance and nothing else. In the United States, 20.2 million adults aged 18 or older suffered from a substance abuse disorder in 2014, accounting for billions of dollars exacted from health care, loss of job productivity, and crime, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Substance abuse must not be taken lightly, and the people who suffer from the disease must be listened to and be provided opportunities to heal. Changes in terms of access to recovery, legislation, and emergency response training must be enacted in order to fight the disease that is affecting millions of lives every year. Community Health Improvement Week is dedicated to helping address the substance abuse epidemic affecting the United States on the ground level.

Community Access to Addiction Treatment

TREATMENT ACCESS

There a variety of ways that those suffering from a substance abuse disorder can access treatment, whether through inpatient and residential programs or outpatient therapy sessions. While many of these services are covered by insurance, residential programs can cost thousands of dollars a month, and may not always be fully covered by all providers. Access to proper recovery requires health insurance reformation in order for those to be able to afford the recovery they need. Even if health insurance covered the full cost all of the time, there are still millions of Americans who cannot afford to live with health insurance.

Increased access to comprehensive addiction treatment not only saves lives, but it is more cost effective than the medical and legal expenses accrued by the rapidly increasing overdose rates.

Legislation for Substance Abuse Prevention

LEGISLATION

Legislative decisions concerning criminal punishment of illicit drug use can pose significant barriers to recovery. People living with the disorder face risk of jail time if the drug is illegal, such as heroin or cocaine. Since prison charges often lead to the loss of job options, this places those with substance abuse disorders at risk for falling back into their addiction even if they do temporarily recover. By changing legislation to remove legal punishment from drug abuse disorders, those in need of drug abuse services will have a better chance at a full recovery.

Illegal drugs are not the only danger when it comes to drug misuse. Prescription opioids are often abused under the misguided belief that they are safer and carry less risks. Additionally, over prescribing of powerful opioids may cause an addiction to develop, leading some to obtain these drugs through illicit means. Legislation imposing greater safety measures and making pharmaceutical companies directly liable for the damages caused by addictive medications can help curtail the thus unchecked issue.

Community Health Improvement Week: First Responders

EMERGENCY RESPONSE TRAINING

Emergency response training must also require training to use Narcan, which is currently the only FDA-approved treatment for drug overdose. Narcan has saved thousands of lives, and emergency response workers are already being trained on how to use it. By expanding training on how response workers should use Narcan, more and more people will have another chance to live and better their lives.

Substance abuse is a real and dangerous condition, and in the United States, we are facing an epidemic. With the right amount of training and attitudes towards reducing the epidemic, our country can give those with the disorder another chance and eliminate the epidemic for good.