Addiction is a disease. Treatment is available. Recovery brings joy.
There may be no truer words than these for individuals in recovery. And for the many adults, adolescents and families struggling with alcoholism, this mantra bears repeating – often.
For almost 30 years every April, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence leads the country in observing Alcohol Awareness Month. We all can do our part to raise public awareness and understanding, reduce stigma and encourage health and human services leaders, policy makers and legislators to focus on this public health issue that touches just about everyone. Did you know that alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States: 17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, has an alcohol use or dependence condition along with several million more who engage in risky binge drinking patterns that could lead to more serious health problems.
We can arm ourselves with these facts to help shape the conversation about alcohol addiction:
88,000 deaths in the U.S. are annually attributed to excessive alcohol use.
Alcoholism is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the nation.
Excessive alcohol use is responsible for 2.5 million years of potential life lost annually, or an average of about 30 years of potential life lost for each death.
Up to 40 percent of all hospital beds in the United States (except for those being used by maternity and intensive care patients) are being used to treat health conditions that are related to alcohol consumption
Here at Bournewood, our experienced staff sees the effects of alcohol addiction every day, and every day we strive to treat the disease, foster sustainable recovery and, in the end, create lasting hope for a good life for adults, adolescents and their families who come to us for help.
I was encouraged recently to see a peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine article that expressed support of the disease model of addiction covered in Forbes magazine. This is very important in advancing the science of addiction medicine — it eliminates the stigma of addiction that it is a moral failure or lack of willpower. We know it’s a disease. We must make sure that everyone knows this too.
In Massachusetts, we got it right. Last month Governor Charlie Baker signed landmark legislation into law to address the deadly opioid and heroin epidemic that is nothing short of a public tragedy. We should feel hopeful for the thousands of citizens whose lives have been cut short by opioid addiction and for their families and communities who have been devastated by opioid addiction. The new law is a sweeping one and includes prevention education for students and doctors. It’s also the first law in the nation to establish a seven day limit on first-time opioid prescriptions.
I want to acknowledge the leadership of Rep. Kay Khan, a member of our Board of Directors, and Senator Jennifer Flanagan who ensured that the bill includes a critical tool in fighting addiction where it often begins – in our schools. The school health screening process will include Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment. Prevention is best strategy in reversing the tragic public health threat of addiction.
As we work toward healing and recovery for thousands of citizens across the Commonwealth, remember the mantra - Addiction is a disease. Treatment is available. Recovery brings joy.
And share it often.