How Can We Treat Drug Abuse If There Aren’t Enough Addiction Experts?

enough addiction experts

Talk is cheap when it comes to addiction treatment. Sure, there’s more media attention than ever on the growing drug problem in America. It makes our policymakers and government agencies look like they care. Talk helps use forge the fight in increasing awareness about the perils of substance abuse to communities that don’t seem to understand until it knocks on their doors, hard. Talk has opened our eyes about the falsehoods and farces within the drug rehab industry and why many people seeking help get taken (financially and emotionally) by businesses and websites pretending to care, but don’t. While many more people succumb to drug addiction and without the help needed die from it, there’s an aspect of the moral dilemma that has fallen through the cracks. It isn’t about the lack of facilities or amount of treatment beds available. We simply don’t have enough addiction experts to service the need.

More People Addicted, Less People Qualified to Help

From the opioid crisis, an increase in benzodiazapine addictions and the ever-present dependency on alcohol, people continue to service their life stress with substance abuse. As the economy changes and with it, availability of health insurance and funding needed to pay for addiction treatment services, many people who need help with overcoming drug dependency are caught between a rock and a hard place. And it’s not for the reasons you might think.

With new local, state and federal laws being presented and put into effect regarding how addiction rehab businesses can operate and represent their services to the public, more reputable companies will rise to the top. Having the proper accreditations and industry licensing is separating the con artists from the legitimate practitioners. This is good. But there’s still a deficit in addiction treatment and it’s coming from within the treatment facilities themselves.

Why Burn Out Is Just Part of the Business

Forbes magazine is one of many publications doing exposes on the addiction treatment industry and why we’re so wrought with misinformation and perhaps, misappropriation of resources. Just as these stories and others reveal, the imbalance appears to be in the addiction therapists.

No one is questioning their industry knowledge. No one is suspect of their personal compassion for their patients and the level of care they provide. What does appear to be the problem lies in the overbearing need for therapists and the lack of career benefits that go with job. And it’s reprehensible.

Long Hours, Not Enough Pay

treat drug abuse effectively

For clinicians providing individual or group counseling to people in addiction treatment, the job is rewarding but the stress can feel insurmountable. Because addiction and the recovery process doesn’t fall within a 40-hour work week, many staff find themselves on call. Finding your life purpose in the pursuit of helping others overcome addiction pushes on emotional stability – even for those of strong mind. It’s hard to not take this work to heart.

With tighter regulations and insurance, AHCCCS or TRICARE providers, therapists and other medical administrators can get buried in paperwork. It’s a necessary evil in the process of admitting, monitoring, and releasing patients in treatment programs it sucks up time in each day that could be better spent treating drug abuse effectively.

Tight Operational Margins Affect Staffing

Drug rehab owners are faced with a heavy weight to carry, the basis of which is often out of their control.

Addiction treatment centers need to balance:

  • Staff needs
  • Facility improvements
  • Regulatory requirements
  • Filling beds

The list (noted above) will change day-to-day and keeping an eye on current needs while forecasting what’s to come will make an impact on the success of treatment programs, its people and patients.

Greener Pastures Have Sent Addiction Therapists Elsewhere

Like in other industries, addiction treatment practitioners will consider making improvements to their career path when the opportunity arises. Usually, people with extensive accolades through specific licensures or higher education will consider a job move for a more prestigious position or better pay but stay within the same field of expertise. This isn’t true for drug rehab in the last decade.

1 in 4 Addiction Clinicians Leaves the Industry

Here’s why. To help make the addiction treatment industry more credible, staffers must be more educated and skilled. They take on more work and more hours – but without an increase in pay. In fact, the average salary for addiction treatment clinicians in the United States is $40,000.

Often, the final blow to their personal commitment for this work is when they experience a bureaucratic hiccup. An open bed available. A prospective patient that needs treatment. The insurance company that holds up the process. And that same patient overdosing and dying during the delay.

Change Needs to Happen Now

Until addiction treatment facilities can hire more clinical experts, and governmental red tape is removed to unlock more funding for treatment and the people who provide it, the exodus from the industry will continue.

It’s apparent that doctors need to know more about drug and alcohol addiction. Nursing and other medical students are receiving more education about addiction than before. Perhaps this will help provide a wider net within the healthcare community about drug and alcohol use disorders and how to recognize the symptoms and behaviors before it’s too late.

If You or Someone You Know Needs Comprehensive Addiction Treatment Now, We’re Here to Help

Melanie SternAuthored by Melanie Stern, Content Director for Scottsdale Recovery Center, Arizona Addiction Recovery Centers and Cohn Media, LLC. Writer and broadcaster covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best.