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What would our communities look like if we actually treated and understood addiction like the chronic disease that it is?
Addiction is our nation’s top public health challenge. It affects 23 million Americans, yet 75 percent will never get well due to failures in our system of care and powerful barriers like stigma, shame and fear. Addiction has long been recognized by science as a chronic disease, but almost everywhere it’s still treated like an acute health problem. What would our communities look like if we actually treated and understood addiction like the chronic disease that it is? We would recognize early symptoms, get help before problems are so severe, and have access to supports and services to manage the disease over a lifetime. We would dramatically reduce the human, social and economic costs of addiction. We believe the solution lies in mobilizing sectors with a vested financial interest in the problem – employers, health care systems, health insurance providers, schools, and others – to fundamentally change the way we deal with this disease. The forces of health care reform are an unprecedented opportunity to enlist these players to create a sustainable solution to addiction. Addressing the symptoms of addiction costs our nation $350 billion annually. Few people seek help; too few people get well. Let's make a fundamental, social change, not unlike what occurred with breast cancer over the past two decades. .