The Price Of Addiction

Mac Kelly

Author Bio.

Addiction has been treated under the guise of “disease” since 1956 when the American Medical Association declared it as such. It officially made its appearance in the 5th version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, making it officially recognized and treated, not as a behavioral issue, but a mental health issue.

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Because addiction to drugs can manifest as a result of untreated mental sickness, the two are often seen as not mutually exclusive, which is why they almost always get bunched under the same umbrella of “mental illness.”  But this attitude or belief system is not only inaccurate, it may be preventing people from getting the help they need.

When experts say that addiction is a symptom of a disease, what they are implying is that the act of doing something bad for you is literally uncontrollable, much like weight loss or lethargy is an uncontrollable symptom of cancer. The problem with that thought-process is it implies that addiction doesn’t require action, foresight, or responsibility; it is literally out of the hands of the victim. And, while there is no doubt that an addict feels out of control, that doesn’t mean he or she actually is. There are plenty of people that have quit drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc. because they made the conscious decision to do so. Quitting an addiction undoubtedly mimics many signs of disease, but sanctioning it as such is actually making it harder for addicts to get affordable treatment.

But why? Why would the health industry purposely misclassify such a widespread and deadly issue?

Money. Lots and lots of money.

Since 2008, insurance companies have been required by law to cover certain aspects of treatment related to addiction. This means, whatever the overhead costs are, a percentage of treatment methods such as psychiatry, hospitalization, treatment centers, and mind-altering drugs must be picked up by insurance. Granted, this is only conducive to really good health insurance, but even bottom-tier insurance companies will be required to cover some treatment.

And this is a glorious setup for hospitals, psychiatrists, pharmaceutical companies and rehabilitation centers. Funneling diagnostic charges through insurance companies allow the professionals to increase their fees to astronomical proportions, profiting off the “illness” of addicts.

Assuming most addicts probably won’t enter rehabilitation unless they have hit rock bottom or have been court ordered, they unlikely have the money or insurance to pay for that treatment. This leaves addicts very few options to get help. Lack of insurance combined with outrageous medical bills is part of the reason untreated addiction has gone up exponentially over the last decade.

The average cost of a 90-day stint in rehab can put you back anywhere from $12,000 to $60,000. A few days in detox costs, on average, $1,500 and methadone treatment alone is roughly $5,000 a year. These prices may be fine if an addict happens to have phenomenal insurance and extra money to finance the deductible, co-pay, and charges not covered by insurance. But that’s highly unlikely if someone has been addicted to something for a long period of time. Insurance isn’t usually top priority on their list of things to pay for.

So, we’ve essentially shot ourselves in the foot as a society. We allowed “experts” the freedom to mislabel a systemic issue that is unilaterally connected with mental health as a “disease.” In doing so, we’ve marginalized addicts as “sick” and given healthcare professionals and drug companies full reign on how and if people can receive treatment. This creates only three possible outcomes: an addict never gets the help they need, an addict does opt for treatment, potentially leaving themselves and their families open to financial debt or bankruptcy, or (best case scenario) an addict finds the strength and support system to turn their lives around.

Until we start assessing addiction as a behavioral and social issue, treatment is likely to be unattainable for the vast majority of addicts. And those in the healthcare industry will continue to feast off a phantom sickness.

  1. Post Author

    Since the pharmeceutical companies have such control of the medical industry and lobbyist to influence congress it will take a major medical institute to turn this thinking around. That’s not likely to happen unless perhaps it starts at the VA hospitals with new management which is somewhat outside the mainstream.

  2. Post Author

    Whatever the initial cause of an addiction, most addicts have a nutritional imbalance in brain chemistry (no, not a medication deficiency!) and will often respond well to treatment with inexpensive nutritional supplements that help restore brain chemistry balance and hence, both better mood and better decision making, making it much easier to lose the cravings and to quit- and without all the conflict, drama– and expense! Have a look at my video: or check out my book, The Addicted Brain and How to Break Free. for some better solutions.

  3. Post Author

    This really is the truth of the matter! It really does come down to money.

  4. Post Author

    Thought, accurate and we’ll written.

  5. Post Author

    Hallelujah! Someone who finally GETS it! Addiction, whether to alcohol, drugs, or any other behavior (religions are frequent culprits, ironically, to be distinguished from genuine faith), is NOT an “illness” in the sense that cancer, diabetes, or infections are diseases. Addiction is a symptom of sin (a word for rebellion against Yhwh God, our Creator, and the lawsHe provided for us to live by, so that our lives would be happiest and healthiest). Recently the PTB even more foolishly and expensively added “addiction” to tell list of disabilities covers by SSDI, and covered it under the ADA as well! A CHOICE is not a disability; and should NOT be so labeled; nether should it be protected under the ADA! Anyone may suffer addictive personality disorder; but NO ONE has to be slave to it; everyone has the choice to resist that, and not allow himself to become addicted, or to break the hold of an addictive behavior! But now, why should he? He’s supported to remain addicted and protected in his bad behavior! This is a direct result of society rejecting Yhwh God’s moral and ethical standards and replacing them with “situational ethics” (which are NO ethics at all), and the fluid amoralty of humanism. It’s long past time to reinstitute sound ethics and morality, and to hold people accountable for their bad behaviors, since that is the best route to convincing people to change their own behaviors! Only when 1 is sufficiently uncomfortable in his circumstances will he change his behaviors to alter the circumstances of his life! And that’s the only way to successfully treat addiction!

  6. Post Author

    I battled a drinking problem for twenty years before I decided enough was enough. Unfortunately, I had to be hospitalized for alcohol withdrawal and acute pancreatitis as a side-effect for six days. Yes, I had insurance, and it paid $24,000 for my treatment, leaving me with a $2,000 debt, which I’ve repaid. Have never attended an AA meeting or received any “counseling” whatsoever, nor did I receive any drugs or prescriptions afterward. I personally think AA itself is something of a racket. I’ve had a glass of wine on seldom occasions with a steak dinner, but I’ve never had a temptation to resume my old drinking ways, nor am I tempted to. I’m not patting myself on the back, but I am saying addiction is NOT a disease, but it can be psychologically crippling. I was properly motivated. To save my marriage, my relationship with my family, and to save my own life. We’ve created a monster in an “addiction/recovery industry,” which is what it is. And the government is eagerly feeding it. And this whole “opioid epidemic” is a crock of bullshit, designed to throttle doctors and give government even more control over our lives and our health care.

    • Post Author

      Some misconceptions on your part regarding both the disease (alcoholism) and the ability to quit (permanently).
      I suggest a better background check on your facts and to talk to members of AA, NA, etc. to better understand the core issues. Your attempt to make it solely a profit motivation is a disservice to us in our recovery.

    • Post Author

      After 34 years sober and a ton of AA meetings this is not a common scenario. Usually one drink and they are off and running, drinking and driving and worse.

      • Post Author

        Alcoholism doesn’t have a lot to do with choice. Some people, the majority, can drink without becoming addicted. Unfortunately, a small minority can’t. The problem is no one knows until they have their first drink, whether they have the alcoholic gene or not. Pointers can sometimes be family history. If unsure don’t drink. If you enjoy a drink, go ahead with the knowledge there may be adverse consequences, and be prepared to deal with those consequences yourself rather than making it society’s problem. Education is the important factor in assisting us all to make sound decisions.

        • Post Author

          there is no empirical support for an ‘alcoholic gene.’ the only thing that determines whether people ‘can’t’ drink is if they believe they can’t. see Marlatt’s balanced placebo design studies – “bonafide alcoholics” show no loss of control after drinking alcohol when they don’t know they’ve consumed alcohol… if it came down to an ‘alcoholic gene’ this would not be possible

    • Post Author

      You are very lucky you could afford insurance. Otherwise your story could have been vastly different.

  7. Post Author

    Liberal leaning medical professionals want everything from bedwetting to 420 to be classified as a disease in order to line their own pockets with grants, insurance company money, and private pay.

    • Post Author

      By liberal I take it you mean the conservative establishment. Or do you mean libertarian?

      • Post Author

        Liberal is as far from conservative as you can get! What does 429 mean????

  8. Post Author

    Perfectly put! There is no such thing as an “addiction,” and anyone can be educated to realize this – get it? Let me repeat that: There is no such thing as “Addiction.”

    People simply need to be educated as to how their brains really work, and taught self control!

    It’s the binary fear that without the drugs, you won’t succeed at whatever your latest ambition is, and the hope that with them, you will.

    That’s all your brain has to attack and try to trick you with – fear, and greed.

    It’s like a computer’s 1 and 0 – for instance, 1000110001110010101010011001110110 (fear greed greed greed fear fear greed etc) – once you figure that out, nothing can ever “addict” you again, because no matter what drug you take, it’s still only going to be able to influence your own brain, and that’s the only two ways it can EVER do it!

    So “Addiction” is a choice, pure and simple.

    And, for instance, (especially in the case of alcohol) it’s often really also only a post-facto choice to pretend to justify or rationalize one’s previous criminal acts!

    • Post Author

      The author makes some good points. My reply is for the commenter who muddled addiction and choice. People who are addicted choose to do drugs; that is true. The difference for an addict is the dependence on that drug. People choose to drink water. They can choose to stop, but it comes with consequences because our bodies are dependent on it. An addicts brain and body responds with more than fear or greed when denied a drug it is depndent on. As far as the body goes, withdrawal from alcohol can kill and the dehydration from opioid withdrawal can too. The addict’s craving for a drug does not process in the frontal cortex of the brain, it takes place in the mid or limbic brain. This survival instinct will bypass normal thought proceses and kick in a survival mode the same as if you are unable to breathe. All of a sudden nothing else matters, just that next breath. If you’ve been addicted you know the panic that sets in is the exact same as when you cannot breathe and this is the science behind it. Your brain demands it. That is addiction; but yes, you still have a choice. Your brain cannot force you to drink water, it can only ask for it.

    • Post Author

      And your qualifications to be the ultimate authority on what addiction is and isn’t are – ?

      • Post Author

        Ditto that!
        Very judgmental discourse not anywhere near helpful.

  9. Post Author

    So little sympathy, so few answers. Smoking cigarettes is an addiction, but a legal one. Legalize all drugs, take the crime out of it, and much of the criminal activity that plagues our country will disappear, just as the bootleggers had to find new crimes to keep themselves busy when prohibition ended. Those people who want to break their habits will do so, and the rest will waste their lives but they won’t be stealing from their relatives, and ODing in cars and on the streets. The drug companies will come up with patches and Chantix type treatments so people can function and be productive members of society while at the same time either breaking their habits or learning to live with it. Prohibition didn’t work and the so-called “war on drugs “ has been a total and expensive failure. Past time to try a different approach!

  10. Post Author

    I have read all the comments and find some of them to be right on target! First off my qualifications for what I am about to say; I have a Master’s Degree as a Counseling Psychologist, I am now retired first from the military (Combat Infantryman, Vietnam), I am also retired from counseling, I worked with so-called addicts for 20+ years, was licensed and/or certified in Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, North Carolina, Florida, with the Veteran’s Administration, the Army in the States and the Army in Europe plus the Air Force. Having listed all of the foregoing; in my personal opinion, no addict will ever quit until they personally make the decision to do so!
    Without getting too technical, there are pleasure centers in the brain that react to different drugs and situations, the one drug that excites every single pleasure center in the brain is alcohol!
    I have never considered addiction to be a disease and have always said that if it is a disease, it is a SELF-INFLICTED DISEASE! I often found myself at odds with my fellow counselors (many with barely a H/S education and some with Associate and higher degrees). I have had the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) etc. mantras and their twelve step-process recited and thrown at me many times and do not agree with their so-called success rates many of their successes return to their chosen drug within a year or less and, to justify this, the purveyors of this definition of addiction being a disease insist that relapse is a part of the addiction and recovery process!
    I attended a conference at a university I graduated from and after hearing all the people lauding the twelve step-process I finally got a chance to speak and I made the following statement: I find it strange that AA, NA etc. have to have a twelve-step process when all God gave us was the Ten Commandments, I got absolute quite and then derision! If I recall correctly the 12 month recidivism rate for AA was around the 90 percentile rate in the 1980s and 1990s.
    I have also dealt with addicts who were addicted to drugs given them medically to help them get off of an illegal drug. And, legalizing drugs is not the answer! Alcohol has been legalized and look what we got from it, we are told the taxes would be great when it takes at least double the amount of taxes collected to deal with the problems related to alcohol, this will probably be far worse if and when illegal drugs begin to be legalized! During prohibition many hospitals closed their doors because of a lack of business, as I recall, a major New York hospital had to close due to a lack of business. Arrests dropped, spouse abuse decreased as did many other crimes including murder all across the country. One family that was behind the traffic in illegal alcohol during prohibition was the Bronfman family of Canada. It was the drunken Congressmen and Senators plus the booze purveyors that got alcohol legalized again!
    I am sure many people will violently disagree with me but, don’t try to correct my observations until you have been in the trenches. It’s like some who try to tell us Combat Infantrymen what it was like in the jungles of SE Asia when, the closest they came to a jungle was in an air conditioned movie house watching Rambo!
    I would be interested in seeing what kind of comments I will receive after I post this one, I speak from experience and education, not from reading some AA or NA advertisement. Just a few comments along the road of life!

    Nuff Said!!!!

    • Post Author

      As an alcoholic, I wish alcohol were illegal again or at least not so readily available, if you want illegal drugs you have to seek them out, Alcohol is part of every function in America and virtually sold everywhere, it is always in your face,. The anti smoking adds are very graphic in tobaccos effects, why does alcohol get a free pass? Show someone dying of cirrhosis rather than beach parties.

  11. Post Author

    One of my professors was instrumental in proving addiction was a “real” disease. He managed to prove that the brain chemistry and structures would actually alter after years of addiction. He did not explain how that forced people to continue drinking and drugging before the changes. I accept that some people are more likely to become addicted to things than other people. I am still waiting to see addict going room to room on a cancer ward and convincing those people their addiction is as much a disease as cancer.

  12. Post Author

    Your professor was correct, over time, the brain reconfiguration or structure and chemistry changes according to behavioral patterns so, if addiction is a “real” disease so also is sodomy, whoredom and many other types of human behavior.
    About twenty or so years ago a brain surgeon, who was so-called gay (sodomite), examined the brain of his male partner after he died. He reported that the structure etc. of his partner’s brain was not normal, it had had changed and there is your answer to the brain’s change. Addiction is a “real” disease just as much as walking, talking, reading and the rest of normal human activities are addictions or “real” diseases!

    Nuff Said!!!!

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