Addiction is a Chronic Disease

… just like cancer or heart disease and it should be treated as such. So says the British Columbia Medical Association (BCMA), who are calling on the provincial government to recognize that addiction is a chronic disease and that it should be funded as such, as reported in a Vancouver Sun cover story today. After all, you wouldn’t ask someone with cancer to pay a per diem for their treatment, but that’s what we see with addiction treatment.

A few interesting (and staggering) facts about addiction (from the Sun article):

  • “In 2002, the estimated cost of treating substance abuse in B.C. was more than $6 billion, or $1,500 per person per year”
  • “one in 10 visits to Vancouver General Hospital’s emergency room is for substance abuse”
  • “B.C. uses enough hospital beds for substance abuse care to fill Kelowna General Hospital every day for a year.”

The story goes on to say that:

“Health Minister George Abbott said he agrees with the recommendations in the report, noting that the ministry is already looking at formally recognizing addictions as chronic diseases.”

and that the province is working on a 10-year mental health and substance abuse plan.  It is encouraging to see both the medical establishment and the provincial government recognizing the horrible toll that addiction takes, as well as the need to treat addiction as the chronic disease that it is.  I am eager to see what the 10 year plan will include and whether the government will put its money where its mouth is.