In 2007, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) conducted a survey in the United States to learn what percentage of the population required drug abuse treatment as compared to what percentage was actually receiving it. The results were shocking. It was learned that 23.2 million people living in the United States who were twelve or older required treatment for drug abuse from a substance abuse treatment center, but only 2.4 million were receiving it. This indicates that over 8.4 percent of the United States population is foregoing necessary medical and mental health care, and that substance abuse treatment programs are being underutilized.
While popular opinion of drug addiction as a social disease is changing to allow for more recent neurological and genetic studies on addiction, these statistics reveal that people are still not being connected to necessary drug addiction programs, for unknown reasons. Medical and mental health professionals consider drug addiction to be a multi-faceted illness that has many psychological and biochemical contributors. Studies reflect that drug addiction has a major affect on the brain’s neural network, as the information carried by neurotransmitters may tell the body it needs an excessive amount of a particular rewarding substance. This chemical rewiring of the brain can make sobriety an overwhelming task to the drug addict without professional intervention. Connecting drug addicts to appropriate treatment can mean the difference between functional and disfunctional living, health and illness, and in extreme cases, life and death.
Two broad categories of drug abuse treatment programs are available to addicts: residential inpatient programs and non-residential outpatient programs. Inpatient rehabilitation programs house the drug addict for a minimum of 28 days while they undergo detoxification and addiction counseling. Addiction inpatient programs are generally more intensive, as the recovering addict’s schedule and living arrangement are customized to their recovery plan. Outpatient programs do not house the drug addict, but instead arrange addiction counselling appointments, group therapy sessions, addiction resources and sobriety sponsorship for them. Understanding the availability of different types of drug addiction treatments is the first step in bridging the disconnect between drug addicts and the addiction treatment resources they need.
The next step is extending an invite for treatment to addicts everywhere by supplying information to shelters, such as the Vancouver homeless shelter, mission organizations such as the Kelowna mission and soup kitchen across North America.