I finally stopped complaining and did something. Below is a letter to the editor that I submitted to the local papers. I also sent copies of it to the Governor and my Michigan and U.S. legislators. What are you going to do?
I am writing in response to the series of articles on the recent opiate overdoses in Wayne County. The most troubling aspect of this story has been exemplified by the coverage — there has been almost no mention of treatment.
More than 600 scientific papers have concluded that treatment for drug addiction works. Relapse rates for addiction treatment are lower than treatment for asthma and hypertension, and equivalent to type 2 diabetes. Patient compliance rates for addiction treatment are better than patient compliance rates in the treatment of asthma and hypertension. Treatment is also cost effective. Studies by the RAND Corporation and UCLA both found that every $1 spent on addiction treatment saves $7 in other costs like medical, human service and criminal justice system costs.
Unfortunately, there’s a treatment shortage in Detroit and the rest of the metro area. Addicts seeking help are routinely provided with inadequate treatment. People who are homeless and have several complicating problems are offered treatment that is not intense enough, does not help them with basic shelter needs, and too short in duration. The result is not unlike treating a bacterial infection with 3 days of antibiotics when the patient needs 10 days. Undertreated patients end up more sick than they were before treatment, they become more difficult to treat, the patient becomes more hopeless, and the community reaches the conclusion that treatment doesn’t work and that these people are a waste of resources. In addition to all of this, untreated addiction destroys the lives of the addicts, does incalculable harm to families and children, and costs the community huge sums of money.
I am amazed and appalled that this crisis has not prompted a highly visible effort to offer treatment and the hope of recovery to opiate addicts in the community. There have been numerous mentions of education efforts in response to this spate of overdoses, but no push for treatment and recovery. Budgets are tight and treatment budgets have not been increased in more than 15 years in some communities, but we can’t afford not to respond to this crisis in a meaningful way. Recovery is a reality. There are thousands of recovering people in the Detroit metro area, many of whom once seemed hopeless. Given the proper help and support, most addicted people will recover and start contributing to community life.
How many people will have to die before we increase treatment funding and pass addiction treatment parity legislation? If we are judged by the way we treat our neighbors, we will be judged harshly for the way we are treating our suffering addicted brothers and sisters.