Message from the Chairman
Addiction is a complex and often chronic disease of the brain. Since there is no biomarker for addiction yet, we recognize it by the compulsive behaviors that people with the disease exhibit. Most people think of addiction as involving tobacco, alcohol and illicit and prescription drugs, but as the science of addiction has matured, so has our understanding of the disease. Pathological gambling, for example, is now considered another expression of addiction and a growing body of research suggests that other compulsive behaviors such as those linked to eating or sex also may reflect the disease.
As with other diseases, there are risk factors for developing addiction which include a genetic inheritance and a broad range of biological, psychological and environmental influences.
Today, approximately 40 million Americans age 12 and over meet the medical criteria for addiction involving just nicotine, alcohol or other drugs. That’s more than the number of people with heart conditions (27 million), diabetes (26 million) or cancer (19 million). Despite the fact that effective behavioral and pharmaceutical treatments are available, only 11 percent of people in need of treatment for addiction involving alcohol or other drugs receive any form of care, and most who do receive help do not receive evidence-based medical treatment.
An additional 80 million people engage in risky use of addictive substances in ways that can threaten public health and safety, but don’t meet the medical criteria for the disease. Together, risky substance use and addiction are responsible for at least 579,000 of the 2.5 million deaths each year in the U.S., and contribute to more than 70 other diseases requiring medical attention.
CASAColumbia is committed to understanding the science of addiction and its implications for public education, health care and public policy.
We will go where the evidence leads us.
—Closing the enormous gap between what we know about the disease and what we actually do to prevent and treat it by moving the way we address these health conditions into routine health care and medical practice.
—Searching for and propagating proven means of effectively preventing, treating and managing this debilitating disease.
—And beginning a serious, sustained quest to find a cure.
We have achieved a great deal in the past 20 years under the leadership of CASAColumbia’s Founder and Chairman Emeritus Joseph A. Califano, Jr. There remains much more work to do and we need everyone’s help.
There is a passage from Robert Louis Stevenson that—in my opinion—sums up my reasons for taking on the role as CASAColumbia’s chairman:
“A person is a success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent people and the love of children; who improves the world; who looks for the best in others and gives the best that they can.”
Addiction is a preventable, treatable and perhaps curable disease. Together we must summon the will to make real, lasting change in the way we confront it. I hope you will join us on this important and exciting journey to give the best that we can to improve the world.