- Posted January 16, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Old News Reported As New -- Without Screening, Doctors May Miss Alcohol Problems
CNN reported today in "Without Screening, Doctors May Miss Alcohol Problems," that doctors fail to adequately screen for alcohol addiction. What is newsworthy is not that doctors fail to adequately screen for addition – it is that they are still failing to do so. The medical community’s failure to screen for alcohol and drug addiction was documented thirteen years ago in a report published in the Journal of American Medicine Association (JAMA). Nothing much has changed since then except that over a million more people have died of addiction, and twenty three million more are at risk.
The 2000 JAMA report found that the medical community does not adequately screen largely because of its view that there is no medical “cure” for addiction, and so there is little point in screening for the disease or in aiding recovery. This view demonstrates a dangerous misunderstanding of addiction and of recovery strategies. The JAMA report concluded that screening must be routine and recovery can be successful if substance abuse is recognized for what it is – a chronic illness requiring continued care, like diabetes or hypertension.
In response to studies like the JAMA report, and the epidemic proportions of the disease, Gil Kerlikowske, the Director of National Drug Control Policy, recently announced a focus on recovery that would employ strategies addressing the chronic nature of the disease. This is a new focus. Past federal substance abuse policy has relied upon treatment and other approaches. Although medical treatment can be critical, funding is limited, treatment is expensive, and such medical care usually lasts for a relatively short period. As a result, Kerlikowske, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and a recent U.S. Senate Report recommend ongoing medical care as needed, continued participation in 12 Step recovery programs, and transitional support reentering society – such as sober housing, childcare and work training. Sufferers who undergo proper care can achieve and maintain recovery.
The medical community has just been wrong -- for a very long time. Combating substance abuse is not useless; the disease has been misunderstood, alarmingly, even by those charged with protecting our health. That is newsworthy.
Lisa M. Jacobsen, JD, UCLA Law; Owner, Harvest House Living