The Buzz | The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse

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Welcome to The Buzz—The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse's online conversation about addiction and substance use.

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Veterans face many challenges when returning from military duty, including adjusting to civilian life and job and housing insecurity. One problem that is often overlooked is excessive alcohol or drug use, which can lead to addiction.

For now, the Senate Republican’s health care bill – the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) – is defeated. To many Americans, the idea of cutting their health benefits was too much, no matter the rosy picture presented by President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and others supporting the bill. 

In 2015, only about 11 percent of the approximately 22 million people who needed addiction treatment received it. And though increased access to treatment is necessary, it’s not enough to close this treatment gap. While barriers to accessing treatment – like the high cost of treatment and the limited number of treatment facilities and providers – may explain why many people who need treatment don’t receive it, the reality is that many experiencing addiction do not feel motivated to seek help. 

As the debate over the Better Care Reconciliation Act continues, there has been a pivotal turn in many politicians’ perspectives on health care – even those who previously opposed Obamacare. There may be one reason to explain this shift: the opioid epidemic. There are many pressing issues concerning health care, including increased costs. But the opioid epidemic, which some experts believe may kill over 90,000 Americans a year in the near future, is by far the most significant. 

Quest Diagnostics’ annual drug testing data for 2016 revealed the highest rate of positive workforce drug tests in 12 years. Given the persistent opioid epidemic, this may not sound surprising. Except, the data show that the increase in positive drug screens were not attributed to heroin or prescription opioids, where rates remained stable or dropped. Instead, there were increases in positive drug screens for cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamines. Notably, the data reflected that positive drug screens for marijuana were higher than the national average in Colorado and Washington, two states that have legalized recreational marijuana.

 

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