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Emerging Issues in Treatment

Some of the issues facing the addictions treatment field have remained the same while others are emerging to the forefront.  Over the past decade, the profile of those needing treatment has dramatically changed.  Drug use patterns and subsequent ways to treat these individuals have been putting tremendous pressure on today’s workforce and treatment capacity to recruit, train, and retain staff, as well as develop future leaders.

Complex conditions such as co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders, co-morbid medical conditions, and criminal justice involvement, have placed exceptional demands on the workforce.  These circumstances require a highly developed, multi-disciplinary approach involving several systems of care.

The number of older adults with substance use disorders is expected to increase from 2.5 million persons in 1999 to 5 million persons by 2020, a 100 percent increase.

The non-medical use of prescription pain relievers, such as oxycontin, increased by 233 percent, from 600,000 persons using in 1990 to more than 2,000sons using in 2001
.1 -- Strengthening Professional Identity: Challenges of the Addictions Treatment Workforce

Addiction Comes at a High Price
Documented costs associated with those left untreated are extremely high.  Estimated costs associated with alcohol and drug abuse are over $327 billion.  These include costs related to violence and property crimes, prison expenses, court costs, emergency room visits, healthcare, child abuse and neglect, unemployment and other social consequences.2

Treating substance use disorders, on the other hand, helps lower these costs substantially. Criminal activity, along with the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and other infectious diseases can also be reduced.  It is estimated that for every dollar spent on addiction treatment programs, there is a $4 to $7 reduction in the cost of drug-related crimes.  With some outpatient programs, total savings can exceed cost by a ration of 12:1.1 

Additional Resources:

Overview of Workforce Development.

SAMHSA Alcohol and Drug Services Study (ADSS) Cost Study: Costs of Substance Abuse Treatment in the Specialty Sector - Provides national estimates for cost, revenue, counseling activities, and staffing. The ADSS Cost Study was the first study of treatment costs with validated cost data from a nationally representative sample of substance abuse treatment facilities.



Abt Associates. (2007). Strengthening Professional Identity: Challenges of the Addictions Treatment Workforce, Rockville: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)/DHHS.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2007). NIDA InfoFacts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction. Retrieved on December 12, 2007 from


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