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Sadly people are only now beginning to realize what many of us who work in the field of addictions have known for many years over 60% of drug addicts and alcoholics relapse into their illness even after 30 days of treatment.  And an alarming percentage end up dying.  A 30 day program is only a beginning. It takes that long just to get to a point where an individual can begin to think clearly again, and that means they begin to start feeling again, especially they start feeling what they had been trying to numb. If those merging feelings are not dealt with they end up causing a relapse into addiction which increases the risk for death.  More beneath the fold...

I have worked in this field for some time now and know of addictions counselors who keep a wardrobe at the ready just for attending the funerals of their clients. Those of us who work in this field see as many deaths annually as those who treat individuals with terminal cancer. I once had a friend with metastatic breast cancer who had a bone marrow transplant went into remission and survived her cancer only to die of a heart attack because of her addiction to pain medications and alcohol. Her survival from cancer showed the power of when funding goes into research in order to save lives, a similar campaign needs to be ignited for drug addicts and alcoholics. If a person goes to a 30 day program, receives weekly aftercare/outpatient treatment and attends a twelve step support group they increase their chances of not relapsing by over 90%. If they are not able to follow this prescription/design for living then usually something more is going on such as a co-occurring mental health disorder and/or unaddressed trauma issues and then a longer round of treatment and support is necessary. Just as people who have diabetes or heart disease the illness of drug addiction and alcoholism can be treated but not cured.  For years there has been a stigma surrounding drug addicts and alcoholics, the stigma involved belief systems that viewed these individuals as weak or lacking will power when in fact these individuals were and are seriously ill people.

 The celebrity show is revealing to the public in stark numbers the toll exacted because of chemical dependency.  But it doesn’t show the entire story, because each one of those deaths create a wake of emotional damage in families and in communities that as with any traumatic event can create ripple effects of pain, trauma and suffering over time. We need for insurance companies to pay for more treatment services. We need for communities to increase funding for treatment services. We need to increase awareness around the fact that this is an illness that is insidious and fatal but also treatable but not curable. We need for the public to start stepping up and to start donating to organizations that are working to provide treatment, research cures and help families and communities to heal.  Drug addicts and alcoholics need our help not our judgment and intolerance. One 501 c 3 charity trying to make a difference is you can also find agencies in your own community to support if you want to make a difference.  Everyone is touched by the illness of chemical addiction. This is a silent epidemic that needs to be exposed and financially funded in order to treat its victims and to find a cure.

Originally posted to Marina Asbury on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 12:09 PM PST.

Also republished by Mental Health Awareness.

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