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Dec 23, 2010


John Curtiss

The American Medical Association identified alcoholism as a primary, progressive, chronic and fatal disease in 1957 and all the research that has been conducted since has supported this claim. No serious professionals who work in the addiction field would dispute this.That is not to say the those who have committed crimes as the result of their addiction should not be held accountable for their actions. However, if we don't address the "problem" of addiction by providing proper, time-tested, effective treatment we will never reduce the "symptoms" that are crippling our society. Alcoholism and drug dependency is a treatable disease.

Let me share some sobering statistics on the current state of affairs in the United States as it relates to alcoholism and drug addiction:

• There are over 20 million alcoholics in this country.
• More than 15 million Americans abuse prescription opiods, depressants and stimulants each year.
• 15 million regularly smoke marijuana.
• 2.4 million Americans use cocaine and more than 600,000 use crack.
• Over 500,000 are regular users of methamphetamine.
• One million use Ecstasy and hallucinogens.
• 4.5 million teens have used controlled prescription drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin, Ritalin and Adderall to get high.

Every year we loose 240,000 Americans to the ravages of substance abuse.

Beyond this enormous human misery caused by addiction, the financial costs are staggering, as well.

The annual bill in the United States is close to $1 trillion in health care costs, low productivity, disability payments, welfare, fires, crime and punishment, legal and court costs, family breakups, child abuse, and the array of social interventions both public and private to deal with the ravages of addiction in our society.

Our hospitals are overwhelmed with victims of auto and home accidents, liver and kidney diseases, AIDS and other illnesses, and violence related to alcohol and drug abuse.

Drug and alcohol abusers and addicts crowd our prisons and clog our courts.

Some 80% of adult and juvenile inmates incarcerated for felonies are involved in drug and alcohol-related offenses or have drug and alcohol problems.

According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services only 10% of adults and 7% of adolescents who need help for alcoholism and drug dependency receive it.

A 2008 study released by SAMHSA Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that 39% of those not getting help sited the lack of insurance coverage and the inability to afford the high cost of treatment as the primary reason.

The cost of NOT treating the 90% of those in need of help is far to detrimental to the good of this country to ignore. And the current system, as it is today will not solve the problem.

We must find more cost effective ways to address addiction and promote recovery.

John Curtiss, President
The Retreat


I couldn't agree more with John Curtiss' response to Representative Gruenhagen claims that addiction is not a brain disorder. Addiction is a disease that has a significant behavioral component and that is one reason that I believe nonprofessionals such as the Representative are often confused by the disorder. John Curtiss and the Retreat are excellent resources in the community to should be called upon by HHS reform committee to help inform Minnesota policies and politics with sound research and data and not unfounded opinions likes those of Representative Gruenhagen.

Gavan O'Duffy

In support of Mr. Curtiss' comment, here is a nice article by Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the scientist who probably more than any, has a comprehensive understanding of the biopsychosocial nature of addiciton.

Gavan O'Duffy
Minneapolis, MN

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