Top takeaways from Dr. Tim Kelly’s Susan Li Conference presentation

Drugs and alcohol can have deleterious effects on families.
As many as 80 percent of incidences of family violence are associated with alcohol abuse, and 25 percent of all U.S. children are exposed to alcohol or other drug abuse/dependence within their families. Problematic use of alcohol and drugs in the home is linked with poorer school performance, child neglect, divorce, homelessness and violence/abuse.

There are too many opioid prescriptions in our society.
Every 19 minutes someone dies from an overdose of controlled substance medications, most notably opioids. In 2008 overdoses surpassed motor vehicle accidents as a cause of death in Indiana. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2012 there were 259 million opioid prescriptions written – enough to provide a bottle to every U.S. adult. As a result over 2 million people are now addicted to painkillers and more than 500,000 are addicted to heroin.

Heroin is as plentiful and accessible as the media makes it out to be, with disastrous consequences.
While the street value of a prescription opioid pill can be $20-$25, a bag of heroin can go for about $10. As a result deaths from heroin have increased 300 percent in the last 4-5 years. This isn’t just happening in inner cities either. Rural areas and suburbia have been severely impacted in this epidemic.

There’s still a stigma hanging over addiction.
A third of Americans believe addiction is caused by a lack of willpower or self-control even though it’s defined as a chronic disease with contributing genetic, psychological and environmental factors.

It’s more effective to treat addiction as a disease than a crime.
Addiction costs our society over $500 billion annually, but only 2 cents of every dollar spent on it goes toward prevention or treatment. The rest goes to hospital care and the criminal justice system. But every dollar invested in treatment and prevention saves $4-$7 in fewer drug-related crimes, court hearings and thefts. “I don’t think we’ve ever figured out how to stop drugs,” Dr. Kelly said. “Rather than attack the supply side, I think we need to treat the demand.”

There are currently not enough treatment providers and options.
In 2013 more than 300,000 people tried and failed to get treatment. Part of the problem is that there aren’t enough physicians and nurses who are trained in addiction medicine. “If you’re looking for a career, please consider pursuing this one,” Kelly said. Those who do manage to get care often receive poorer quality treatment than patients with other common chronic conditions.