Given the costs to drug users, their families, friends, employers, and health care providers, 67% of Americans now favor treating drug addiction as a health problem.

While the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) conservatively estimates that every $1 invested to treat drug addiction can save society at least $4 in criminal justice and health care costs, treatment is still expensive, resulting in an ongoing wide treatment gap. In 2013, an estimated 22.7 million Americans (8.6%) needed treatment for alcohol or drug abuse, but only 2.5 million (0.9%) actually received any treatment. What Works?

Research suggests the strongest predictors for successful recovery involve a change in the addict’s environment, including a new set of friends. While such measures are inexpensive, a sustainable recovery requires trained counselors to make frequent home visits for long periods, which are expensive. And staying clean for a while is no guarantee that an addict won’t relapse. Sadly, 88% of meth addicts return to their habit only three years after going drug-free. Heroin addicts can go even decades before relapsing. Such was the fate for the famous actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and is sadly true for thousands of less well-known heroin users.

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Posted by Anaïs Faure