The Cost of Addiction Part 2: The Cost of Mike’s Alcohol Use Disorder

As touched on in our previous post, addiction unnecessarily costs taxpayers a lot of money. Mike had to speak at a conference on reducing hospital admissions earlier this year, and for that talk, we tallied what Mike’s trip to rock bottom cost the BC taxpayer.

At every stop on his downward spiral, there was an opportunity to intervene and provide real-evidence-based treatment. But that didn’t happen. In many, many trips to the ER, after waiting hours, Mike would be discharged with a bus pass and some Ativan. Yet we now know, a compassionate and brief referral to treatment, could have set him on a different path.

As the infographic at the end of this post shows, the grand total was $152,715.

Here’s the brutal irony. While all this money was spent, Mike’s disorder kept getting worse. And these are just what he cost the health care system, never mind social services, court and prison costs. During the 3 weeks Mike served for drunk-driving-related offences, he estimated 75% of his fellow inmates had a substance use disorder.

Mike’s substance use disorder was extreme. But with an estimated 18 million North Americans suffering from some kind of alcohol dependence, if even a fraction of those get the same lack of effective treatment as Mike, what an enormous waste of tax dollars.

The biggest waste of all, of course, was Mike’s dignity. The road to rock bottom is full of humiliation, loss, physical and mental agony and loneliness. Why do we accept that this is the price those battling addictions must pay in order to get well? We do, because we still believe they are somehow flawed.

It’s time to change the conversation about addiction. Regardless of what causes addiction, those who suffer become severely ill. And like anyone else who is suffering, they deserve compassionate, evidenced-based care.

The Cost of Addiction Infographic 2

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