Addiction is Winning and We Can’t Afford It

Addiction is WinningYou’ve noticed. We’ve all noticed. The public has noticed, presidential candidates have noticed, health insurance payers have noticed, nurses, law enforcement officers, spouses, employers, teachers, parents, middle school students…everyone has noticed. Addiction has gone mainstream. No longer a shushed subject or a topic to be whispered about, it has come out of its proverbial closet and is throwing an imposing coming out party.

At MAP Health Management, we are committed to improving the outcomes of individuals and families who are battling addiction. Like so many Americans, many of our employees have experienced the effects of addiction or know someone who has.

One MAP employee described addiction as a dark place with no light, no way of seeing where she is going or where she has been; she went so far as to describe it as evil and smelling of sulfur.

Another employee explained that addiction is there waiting to suffocate you and instead of running for safety, you are drawn to it like a magnet, gravitating toward what looks like dancing sparkles.

Despite the stigma, it continues to drag along behind like an errant piece of trash stuck on the bottom of a shoe, addiction is walking the red carpet and relishing in its current distinctions.

For a chronic brain disease that requires strategic, structured long-term maintenance in order to be subdued, addiction has durability and persistence and appears to be winning.

Every year addiction costs our nation more than the year before and it has successfully affected every possible segment of our society: (1) Economic and Healthcare, (2) Employers, (3) Public Sector, (4) Society and (5) Humanity. The point tally is over-whelming in addiction’s favor.

Economic Costs

The economic costs of addiction are estimated to be $569 billion per year. In fact, the economic burden of addiction in the U.S. is twice that of any other disease affecting the brain (including Alzheimer’s).

Individuals with addiction have higher rates of other chronic physical illness, mental health problems and infectious diseases which is one reason addiction drives healthcare costs, estimated to be $215 billion each year.

One in 14 hospital stays involves addiction and recently, ABC’s 20/20 reported that every 25 minutes, a baby in this country is born addicted to opioids.

Addiction has had devastating effects on U.S. employers. Untreated addiction in the workplace costs employers $1,700 per employee, per year. An estimated 500 million workdays are lost annually because of  addiction problems and 67% of HR professionals report that addiction is one of the most serious issues they face.

Public sector costs are at an all-time high and addiction is the number one cost driver in the social service sector. $1 of every $4 (25%), of Medicare is spent on inpatient care related to addiction.

Impacts on Society

Addiction has wreaked havoc on society. Two-thirds of maltreated children in foster homes involve problems that are directly related to addiction in the family. Alcohol is the key factor in two-thirds of all manslaughters and assaults and 80% of offenders have substance use related problems.

Half of all incarcerated individuals are clinically addicted.

And the human toll? 350 Americans die every day from addiction, 100 of those from overdose and a large majority under the age of 25. Excessive alcohol use is responsible for 79,000 deaths in the U.S. and each year and one in five suicide victims had an addiction.

Addiction is Winning and We Can’t Afford It

Jacob Levenson

Jacob Levenson is the founder and CEO of Austin-based MAP Health Management, LLC. MAP is the nation’s leader in the provision of a comprehensive, accessible technology platform specifically developed to improve treatment outcomes for individuals treated for Substance Use Disorder, addictions and other behavioral health illnesses. Levenson is a frequent contributor to leading addiction, healthcare IT and population health management publications and was recently recognized by Becker’s Hospital Review as one of the leading healthcare entrepreneurs in the nation. For more information, visit


APA Reference
Levenson, J. (2016). Addiction is Winning and We Can’t Afford It. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 1, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Apr 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Apr 2016
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