The problem with the White House’s heroin program

Most American addicts are not in treatment, however, not even a free 12-step program. Of those who are in treatment, the vast majority will quit or start using again within a year, studies show. And the result is an endless loop of denial, decline, recovery, and relapse.

So what do we do? “It’s not rocket science,” McLellan told NBC News last year as part of a special series on Heroin in America. It’s simple, he says. We need to offer people five years of care, beginning with rehab, progressing through stages of monitoring, and ending up in an out-patient setting. That’s it: acute care, monitoring, and consequences. We already provide it to drug addicted airline pilots, McLellan points out, and we get success rates above 80%…

How many years of care are cancer patients given? From diagnosis to options for treatment to some sort of recovery? How about heart patients, diabetics, or others with chronic conditions? How many years of care do they get? Is addiction considered an acute condition or a chronic one?

But addiction, according to the best science, is a brain disease that can never be cured by the cops. It’s a chronic disease, a lot like diabetes. While absorbing the White House’s new Heroin Response Strategy as a treatment option, consider what it would sound like if the same program were applied to people with a blood-sugar problem.

It would mean busting people with bad diets, shaking them down for details on where they get their food, and launching a multi-state response to the big food cartels that are pushing this stuff down our throats. Then it would mean discharging the user to a church basement somewhere for a 28-day rehab program. Two months later, most likely, they’d be sick again.

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