CASA Columbia Says Addiction Most Neglected Disease in US, Part I

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA Columbia) recently released a comprehensive 573-page report on the landscape of addiction in the US called, Addiction Medicine: Closing the Gap Between Science and Practice. CASA Columbia is a prominent center for addiction research and the new report was the result of five years of research under the direction of Drew E. Altman, Ph.D., president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. He brought together a group of investigators including:

  • Addiction specialists
  • Public health officials
  • Judicial and law enforcement experts
  • University academic researchers
  • Hospitals

The depth and breadth of the team’s analysis was far-reaching and the bottom line of the report points to addiction as the most undertreated disease in the United States today.

Report Finds Definition of Addiction Not in Line With Public Perception

The report emphasized all forms of abuse and dependence on substances including alcohol, tobacco, illicit and prescription drugs. Their investigation found that public beliefs about addiction are not in line with scientific findings. Roughly one-third of people in the US see addiction as a “lack of willpower or self-control” despite the fact that scientific research supports the disease model of addiction.

They also outlined the following definition of addictive behavior: Compulsive use of alcohol and drugs despite clear harm to relationships, work, physical and emotional health where the body experiences withdrawal symptoms when the amount of the drug falls too low in the bloodstream.

CASA Columbia Report Explores How to Give Addiction the Attention It Needs

The researchers shockingly found that nearly a quarter of all 2.5 million deaths in the US each year can be attributed to some form of drug addiction and that tobacco use is the frontrunner for most preventable disease. In addition, the team discovered that nearly $468 billion from the federal government are lost to addiction-related issues every year.

Fixing the Problems Associated With Untreated Drug Addiction in the US

It can take decades to fix a broken system when the system is as elaborate as the US health care system. Layers of funding and governmental regulation control the current incarnation of drug addiction treatment in the United States and years of legislative changes are ahead if the problem is to be addressed effectively.

In the meantime, how can we fix the issue? Stay tuned for our next post to see the recommendations of researchers on how we can improve drug addiction treatment in the United States, one patient at a time.