Mental Illness and Addiction Insights

The damages of substance abuse and mental illness costs the United States $484 billion per year (National Institute on Drug Abuse) that’s more than the cost of diabetes and cancer combined at $302 Billion. 

substance abuseAddiction is both a physical and mental affliction that alters over 25 million lives each day in America. The massive financial burdens associated with addictions such as gambling and  substance abuse are costing tax payers billions in lost workforce productivity, incarceration and health care but it can’t be swept under the veil of secrecy much longer due to America’s $19 Trillion national debt obligation writes James Dean @

For decades people in America and celebrities have died from substance abuse including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rush Limbaugh, Brett Fevre, Chris Farley, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Whitney Houston, Anna Nicole Smith, Corey Monteith, Heath Ledger, Robin Williams and Kurt Cobain. Only recently have movies like Sliver Linings Playbook addressed mental illness, a major U.S. crisis that has gone by the way side far too long. The economic costs of mental illness and addiction must be addressed by the next President.

Individuals that have addiction problems today are often soccer moms, young adults and men in crisis that many times are denied insurance coverage for treatment. It’s a problem that can be solved by strengthening the entire family unit through cost-effective measures as outlined in research article and based on experience says Mr. Dean. The United States can no longer afford to ignore the problem of substance abuse.

Americans view of AddictionIn fact, the breakdown in families across America now in poverty has skyrocketed to a point that over 42% of kids are living in low-income families. Studies prove these children are at very high risk to later commit crimes and lacking high quality education that affects their standard of living forever (National Center for Children in Poverty).

Whether you believe addiction is a medical condition or a lack of moral self-control may actually be one in the same. For example, as a person’s brain becomes hooked on the thrill of gambling, they receive chemical stimulants in the brain called beta endorphins that deliver real physical pleasure to the body. The speed at which the individual becomes addicted varies depending on their genetic makeup and environmental stressors.

Television shows like Dr. Drew Pinsky, A&E Intervention, VH1 Celebrity Rehab and Dr. Phil are now openly talking about how ordinary people in America deal with real life circumstances both internal and external is a key transformation to staying healthy. 

Take a mother that suddenly finds her kids went off to college, lonely she begins to drink and take pills that leads to addiction. But the addiction does not make her a bad person as she struggles to regain a healthy lifestyle which may take years to accomplish. The psychology of how we treat addicts should be focused less on shame and more concerned with fixing the problem. Individuals are not powerless to solve addiction problems it is possible to build a full happy life and grow through this learning experience. 

Statistics show that groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (only 5% remain sober) programs alone are not enough. The addict must take full ownership as part of a full transformation rebuilding with a new purpose in life. Once the initial addiction cycle has been broken within about 90-days, going on to pretend that we are “powerless” only creates further excuses to fail therefore opportunities to gain employment, improve education and financial success must be made available to redirect the anxious person’s concerns while in recovery. The tangible need to be accepted and valued by others through useful work and projects if met will accelerate the addict’s progress.  

Solutions to Addiction in America 

Family enablers, those that may have provided money for example to buy drugs must also change their behavior. The cycle of setbacks and relapses may occur during recovery attempts but should be rapidly broken within 24-hours to get back to a healthy lifestyle that maintains progress. The addict must love themselves first, then others before recovery is stable long-term.

Secondly, the Court system must recognize that treatment for those charged with crimes and addiction is the most cost-effective path to creating productive individuals able to contribute to society. For the vast majority of those convicted of non-violent crimes, incarceration is only valuable short-term to break the cycle and bad habits (about 90 days to one year); otherwise excessive jail time damages the ability of the individual to return to the workforce. This lack of job opportunity upon release affects family members such as children that may need financial support but must now be thrust into the welfare system due to the convicted parent’s inability to earn money by gaining employment. 

If a person serves their time in jail, the criminal record should be sealed within 18-months after release and good behavior so that it no longer prevents them from working at a steady job – earning a living to the best of their ability. Currently, a person’s record follows them forever making them unemployable in most cases for life which affects the children and puts the burden of family support on the federal and state welfare systems. The person’s record that follows in effect makes it a life sentence far beyond the time served.   

Thirdly, over the past 35 years the United States has spent $25 billion per year (over $1 trillion) on drug law enforcement and foreign drug wars that have had very little impact on the availability of street drugs. Additionally, we spend upwards of $16 billion per year to incarcerate people who need addiction treatment but only a tiny portion goes to treat the core problem.

For example, California spent $47,102 per year to house, feed, medicate and protect inmates but only $313 annually goes towards addiction treatment. Today, the U.S. tax money is not being spent wisely to solve the real problems of addiction in our society by investing in better education, job skills training, mentor programs and electronic monitoring that produces better cost-effective results. Review California’s Annual Cost to Incarcerate a Person in Jail 

Fourth, we need to view addiction treatment as a cry for help that generally is due to low self-esteem. Typically, the substance abuser from early age perceives that they are not valued by society. The person in crisis may also lack job skills unable to gain financial resources for education necessary to earn a decent living.  

Effective treatment for addiction should place a much greater emphasis on job training and mentor programs run by businesses in the community. Federal and state tax breaks are great business incentives for job rehabilitation programs helping people on a local level. 

Companies should be given every possible benefit for employing a recovering addict or someone just out of jail seeking to become a productive member of society. This process is far more cost-effective and builds a better individual that can translate into stronger families across America. Remember addiction effects over 25 million Americans many of which are mothers and fathers. Tragically, Philip Hoffman left behind two wonderful children.

Ultimately, people don’t become addicted by choice it’s a combination of circumstances such as a lack of employment, dysfunctional family hardships, socialization failures and limited education, all reasons that often lead to substances abuse problems. Tremendous strain is placed on the family unit which typically attempts to hid the shame of a brother, sister, uncle and parent in crisis during addiction substance abuse.

Even, the dirty economic secret of addiction is swept under the rug costing America $484 billion per year. Maybe, it’s time for a new approach that can save billions of dollars, improve families and build a more open, closer community for America’s children. It’s no wonder we see so many tragedies strike at the heart of our country. We can solve this prolific lack of hope particularly in young people facing big unemployment rates by first openly embracing that people are not perfect creatures often going through periods of disillusionment which can lead to addiction troubles.

When it comes to treating family addiction issues and crimes related to addiction, even if it’s only the financial calculation that we look at today without question our money is being wasted says Mr. Dean. America with its huge debt burdens can no longer afford to keep the “dirty economic secret of addiction” hidden away. The reality is substance abuse and mental illnesses are a MEDICAL issues. But often people are unable to find AFFORDABLE help to relieve this public health crisis.

For decades, it has stigmatized millions of good people suffering from a physical and mental affliction that can be corrected in a much more productive, cost effective and humane manner that maintains dignity.

Most importantly, its our duty to correct the epidemic of substance abuse and mental illness for our children. By creating an open dialogue void of shame, we protect our citizens from poor choices instead finding solutions that save lives and money adds Mr. Dean.

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