What a great success this past Saturday’s Rally for Recovery was for our entire community. It was a joyous day of celebration and remembrance for all those who have been touched by addiction, and included the Garrett Maloney Foundation, Portsmouth City Health Department, SOLACE, Bikers for Christ, The National Guard, AppaPhil, Second Chance/Kindred Spirits/Marsh House Men’s Programs of The Counseling Center Inc, Scioto County Drug Task Force, and clients in recovery. It would not have been possible without many partners coming together to pull it off, and it really shows positive outcomes can happen when we all pull together.
As we celebrate the success of Saturday, we must remember, addiction affects not only the person using drugs, but family members, friends, and abstractly, every member of our society. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates the cost of addiction to our society at over $100 billion. Alcohol and drug addictions account for significant medical, workplace, crime, and social welfare costs that are paid by everyone. People with addiction problems are typically portrayed as jobless, but 78 percent of persons with addiction problems are employed, and their illness is costing businesses significant dollars in absenteeism, low productivity, and on-the-job accidents.
Health care expenditures for problems caused by addiction were over $10 billion last year. Addiction is the underlying cause of an assortment of health care issues at a growing expense. Some health care issues associated with addiction will later turn in to chronic problems for people in recovery or treatment, such as Hepatitis C, HIV Aids, cirrhosis, or heart disease.
Other social problems are a direct result of addiction. Child abuse, neglect, and domestic violence are heavily influenced by addiction. There are over 500,000 children in foster care in the United States. Our main concern is for the proper care of these children, but we should also consider the financial cost of caring for them in our federal, state and locally funded children services programs.
When someone misses work, gets arrested, spends time in jail, has their children placed in foster care, has an accident, or receives medical services because of alcohol or drug addiction there is a high emotional and financial cost, and everyone shares in that cost.
It’s not just an individual problem – it is a community problem. So, what is the answer?
The answer lies in the treatment of drug addiction and identification of persons with addiction in the workplace, criminal justice system, health care system and other social service programs. It is our challenge to treat the cause of these expensive consequences rather than treating just the symptoms of addiction. There are those who think it’s best to just “wash our hands” of those with addictions, put them in jail, remove their children, and fire them from their jobs. But remember, there is a significant financial cost to each of those options, a cost that most always exceeds the cost of providing treatment, treatment that can either maintain a person as a tax paying citizen, or help return someone to the workforce.
Saturday’s event celebrated the success stories of recovery, and the willingness of our community to join together to fight against addiction. It was a great success, so congratulations to all who donated their time, talents, and resources and to all who attended.
Ed Hughes is director of The Counseling Center, in Portsmouth.