'It's Time to Treat Addiction Like Cancer'
Newsweek US|May 31 - June 07, 2024 (Double Issue)
Both are serious illnesses but, unlike those struggling with substance use disorders, didn’t face shame and stigma when seeking help over my tumors
JEFFREY L. REYNOLDS
'It's Time to Treat Addiction Like Cancer'

HAVING JUST COMPLETED SIX months of radiation and chemotherapy for stage 3B colorectal cancer, I'm thankful for an exceptional health care experience and the best possible outcome, which doctors cautiously call "No Evidence of Disease."

Though I'll need anxiety-provoking scans every few months for the foreseeable future, my oncologist reviewed my recent results, congratulated me with all the usual caveats and emphasized: "It's not every day I'm able to share such good news."

His declaration left me relieved but painfully aware of persistent disparities, not only in cancer care but [also] in the way we treat other diseases; namely, addiction.

I'm a white, middle-class, well-insured man who has worked in nonprofit behavioral health services for more than 30 years, so my social determinants of health are admittedly different to others I met in the infusion room.

Cancer care is far from perfect, but the chasm between addiction and the rest of medicine was at once eye-opening and disheartening.

While substance use disorders are more treatable than ever before, over a million Americans have died from overdoses during a 20-year-long opioid crisis, and illegally manufactured fentanyl has driven annual fatalities to record highs.

Alcohol still kills more people than any illicit drug, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the National Institutes of Health-reported surge in drinking during COVID that's been linked to social isolation, job loss, economic hardship and mental health problems has not yet subsided.

Cocaine and methamphetamine use have risen in the last decade, so much so that some experts are warning that stimulant use may become our nation's next drug epidemic.

This story is from the May 31 - June 07, 2024 (Double Issue) edition of Newsweek US.

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This story is from the May 31 - June 07, 2024 (Double Issue) edition of Newsweek US.

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