Getting Addiction Out of the Closet

By March 10, 2013Addiction

I saw a television advertisement recently for an addiction treatment center in Southern California. The ad declared that the center’s addiction services were the best in the world with world class outcomes to match. Maybe you’ve seen the ad. The ad went on to say that the center’s exceptional results are guaranteed. Whoa…I had to learn more and called to inquire about what these people might be doing differently in addiction treatment. My call was answered by a very nice man who said they did what most other centers do around the country, but just recycled their clients, “if at first they did not succeed”–at no additional charge. How much did they charge for their 90-day program? Only “about” $115,000 dollars. Is it really necessary to spend $115,000++ dollars–and plenty of people do–for addiction treatment when the results are the same wherever one looks? No. The problem is we’re really not addressing the problem.

Here’s my point: Addiction treatment remains like the rest of the culture: Dysfunctional.

Our culture produces our addicted population–our chemically and behaviorally dependent community. These genetically pre-disposed, brain disordered, at risk people with all the attendant family and environmental triggers–thought to be about 20% of us–are accidents waiting to happen, most of whom never knew what hit ‘em. Stats tell us that only 3% of the estimated 60 million substance and behavior misuse addicts in the United States get treatment–at all. Three percent. And of those, only one quarter, 25% respond favorably. The remainder, or three quarters of them get recycled back into the addictive culture from whence they came and the sad story of addiction drums on…and on. No wonder addiction’s got a dubious reputation.

Part of the problem has to do with the individual parts of the addiction treatment “community” remain isolated from one another and the mainstream by virtue of the compartmentalized nature of modern health care and the anonymity and confidentiality issues that the culture insists upon. We have a plethora of, for-profit, addiction treatment centers around the country answering families’, “We’ll do/pay anything, just make this (addiction) stop ruining our family!” battle cry. This, along with the still stigmatized, moralized and marginalized nature of how addiction is misunderstood in this country, creates a perfect storm of a conundrum.

Another part of the problem is addiction treatment is being corporatized. Bigger, parent companies are buying up independent centers at a quickening pace because well, it’s profitable! If jeopardized, the profit motive, the bottom line necessarily has to supersede any other consideration including more holistic and integrated approaches. Hey, it’s what corporations do and to the degree that we keep the primacy of the profit motive in what we’re currently calling health care, it’s what WE do. And why would a corporation want to disturb its bottom line by messing with the returning customer phenomenon that is its bread and butter? The care givers working in these corporations are seasoned, compassionate and empathetic professionals but something is definitely being “lost in translation.”

One definition for the word community is, “A place to bring and share our gifts.” What needs to happen to break addiction treatment’s 25% glass ceiling is to:

1. Get addiction out of the closet. It’s not a moral issue, it’s a brain disorder and disease. Addiction is our problem. We are creating it, not the inner city heroin user. See the feature documentary, The Anonymous People ASAP.

2. Educate the entire community. Teachers, emergency room physicians, fire fighters/EMT’s, CHP and other law enforcement professionals are inundated with the devastation of addiction day in and day out. Bring in E.R. docs and Fire Captains, the CHP and neighborhood police officers to speak at places from Parent Teacher Associations to Junior League and Rotarian meetings to let us all know what they’re doing all day: Dealing with what we are producing: More and more addicts.

3. The addiction treatment community needs to become the entire community. We need to recruit all hands, all minds, bodies and spirits to start to make a real and significant difference in this, our number one health challenge in the United States today.

Want to know how to keep your friend, brother, sister, cousin, uncle, mom, dad, aunt, son, husband or daughter from coming out of rehab and going back to the same old habits? Stop being the same old culture that created the habits in the first place. Go to Al-anon meetings–for you. Stop using the alcohol and other drugs and behaviors that you don’t have a problem with–if it’s not a problem, no problem, just stop doing it.

If we’re not all part of the problem, there is no solution. In the 48 hours, the two days it took from conception to publishing this article, 50 people were killed by drunk drivers and 80 people died of prescription drug overdose all over the country. That’s 130 deaths in two days.

We need to break that 25% success rate glass ceiling in addiction treatment and we can, but we can’t do it without you. Let’s get addiction out of the closet.

Dr. Herby Bell is a Recovery and Wellness Coach and owner of Recovery Health Care, an integrated approach to wellness and addiction recovery in Saratoga, California. For more information please call 650 474 9411 or Email: herbybell@me.com.  Connect with me online too:  Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Dave Cooke says:

    Herby, agree with everything you shared. The corporately profitable treatment and cure programs are incredibly unsettling because of the sheer desperation of parents to fix the problem in their child. Also, the need for a more connected and collaborative community. The latter is getting better as the former is getting worse.

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