To the Editor:
The real issue is that addiction, no matter how it is defined, is vastly underdiagnosed and undertreated in our health care system.
Addiction and risky use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs claim at least 580,000 lives a year, drive 30 percent of national health care spending, and cost each person in America an average of about $1,500 each year.
Yearly government spending on substance use and addiction is nearly $500 billion; the tragedy is that only 2 cents of every dollar we spend goes to prevention and treatment. We spend the rest coping with the consequences in our prisons and jails, hospitals, and education and child welfare systems.
The real challenge we face is to identify this problem early and get people the help they need to prevent and treat this devastating disease.
William H. Foster
President and CEO
National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASAColumbia)