The United States is reeling from one of the deadliest drug-related crises of all time, with over 90 Americans dying after overdosing on opioids every day. The misuse of drugs like heroin, prescription painkillers, and synthetic opioids like fentanyl has resulted in a national health crisis and economic burden of over $78.5 billion annually — a figure that includes the costs of healthcare, criminal justice involvement, lost productivity, and addiction treatment.

With that much money being dedicated to addiction treatment, however, one has to wonder how effective these programs truly are — especially since the ideal end result is permanently ending the widespread usage of opioids. Is the United States’ addiction treatment genuinely lacking, or is there something else going on?

In order to answer such questions, let us take the time to evaluate the American addiction rehabilitation system and its overall effectiveness.

What does a typical addiction treatment program look like?

For those who have not been through rehabilitation, the process of achieving sobriety is relatively unknown. Therefore, it is imperative to shed some light on the topic. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, an addiction program is only considered effective if it follows these key principles:

  • No single treatment is right for everyone
  • People need to have quick access to treatment
  • Effective treatment addresses all of the patient’s needs, not just his or her drug abuse
  • Medically assisted detoxification is only the first step of treatment
  • Treatment should address all other possible mental disorders

Assuming every facility follows such protocol and prioritizes the implementation of these and other key principles, how could the United States still be faced with such a deadly dilemma?

Perhaps it has less to do with the facilities themselves, and more with the mindset of those outside this niche medical community.

After all, it is no secret that there is an intense stigma surrounding addiction, as well as any and all associated mental illnesses. Those who are struggling with mental illness and/or addiction may feel ashamed of their struggles, rejected by the people around them, and ultimately lead them to believe they are unworthy of treatment or, worse yet, life in general.

With these factors in mind, it may be time to shift our focus from launching “massive media campaigns to end the opioid crisis” to ending the epidemic on a personal level, right in our own communities. It is time to remove the burden of addiction from victims’ shoulders, to stop viewing them as inconveniences to our society and economy, to boost local outreach and support, and to level with these individuals as human beings. It is possible to right the previous wrongs of our society, but we must begin to try in order to see such changes.