To the Editor:
You report that by 2040 more than nine million people will have dementia. While clearly an important health finding, equally alarming is that we currently have a disease affecting four times the number of Americans that dementia will three decades from now.
Today, the disease of addiction affects 40 million Americans — more than the number with heart disease, diabetes, cancer or dementia. An additional 80 million engage in substance use in ways that threaten health and safety.
While total costs of dementia are projected to reach $500 billion a year by 2040, risky substance use and addiction right now cost government alone almost $500 billion each year.
As we struggle to reduce skyrocketing health costs, it is time to recognize addiction as a complex brain disease and take steps we know can help prevent and effectively treat it.
The writer is director of CASAColumbia’s Substance Abuse Data Analysis Center.