The problem of alcohol and drug misuse in the United States is serious and pervasive. However, despite the challenges described above, this is also a time of great hope and opportunity:
- Research on alcohol and drug use, and addiction, has led to an increase of knowledge and to one clear conclusion: Addiction to alcohol or drugs is a chronic but treatable brain disease that requires medical intervention, not moral judgment.
- Policies and programs have been developed that are effective in preventing alcohol and drug misuse and reducing its negative effects.
- Effective treatments for substance use disorders are available. Evidence-based treatments—both medications and behavioral therapies—can save lives and restore people’s health, well-being, and functioning, as well as reduce the spread of infectious disease and lessen other consequences.
- Support services such as mutual aid groups (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous), recovery housing, and recovery coaches are increasingly available to help people in the long and often difficult task of maintaining recovery after treatment.
- Health care reform efforts are creating new opportunities to increase access to prevention and treatment services to improve public health. Health insurers that participate in the new Health Care Marketplace must now cover costs related to mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment, and may not apply limitations on those benefits that are more restrictive than limitations applied on the benefits for medical and surgical services. Other incentives are encouraging general health systems to control costs, improve outcomes, and reduce readmissions by addressing patients’ substance use. Transformations in the health care landscape are supporting integration of substance use disorder treatment with general health care in ways that will better address the needs of the millions of people suffering from these disorders.
- The criminal justice system is engaged in efforts to place non-violent drug offenders in treatment instead of jail, to improve the delivery of evidence-based treatment for incarcerated persons, and to coordinate care in the community when inmates are released.
Together, these changes are leading to a new landscape of care for alcohol and drug misuse problems in America, and to new hope for millions of people who suffer from them.