Healthcare is Sick

Is there a cure?

A costly stigma around addiction

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[listen to the portion of my interview with sally that corresponds with this blog post here]

News flash: addiction is a disease that some are more predisposed to than others.  Scientists estimate that genetic factors account for between 40 and 60 percent of a person’s vulnerability to addiction, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“If my mom or dad was alcoholic or drug dependent at one time… I have an increased risk because of that genetic factor,” said Sally Linowski, Director of the Center for Health Promotion in University Health Services.  “Just like some people have a predisposition to certain types of cancers or certain auto immune diseases.”

She said the genetic predisposition doesn’t directly correlate to alcoholism or drug dependency, “it just means you have a flag.  Your more likely than the average person.”

Linowksi said environmental factors also increase one’s chances for addiction, such as growing up in a household with heavy drinking or drug abuse, poor social control and lack of family rules, or being part of a targeted social group.  Any of these things make one more likely to use drugs and alcohol at an unhealthy level.

“A lot of people think about substance abuse as a poor choice… and a lack of self control,” Linowski said.  “If you think about it as a disease of the brain that actually changes the brain chemistry it invites a different level of understanding…  No one wakes up one day and says ‘I’m going to become an addict.’”

Unfortunately many who suffer from addiction do not receive adequate treatment, according to Department of Health and Human Services data. In 2005-2006, 23.8 percent of 18-25 year olds in Massachusetts were alcohol or drug dependent; of this group 9 percent did not receive needed treatment for drug addiction, and 19 percent for alcohol addiction.

This lack of treatment ends up costing the system in the end, according to the Marin Institute, an alcohol industry watchdog group.   Twenty-five to forty percent of all patients in U.S. general hospital beds (not in maternity or intensive care) are being treated for complications of alcohol-related problems, and untreated alcohol problems waste an estimated $184.6 billion dollars per year in health care, business and criminal justice costs.


Written by Chris Russell

October 30, 2009 at 11:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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