To say that there’s a problem with addiction and mental health options for Americans is probably the nicest way to say it when put into contrast with how these deaths are adding up to a point where the country’s life expectancy is affected negatively. Patrick Kennedy, former U.S. congressman and mental health advocate, recently spoke publicly about his concerns for the country’s crises contributing to the decline in life expectancy. He was chief sponsor and writer of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 which helped put insurance companies on the hook as part of coverage offered, treating those issues the same as medical and physical ailments.
“There’s too many things we could be doing right now that we’re not to help reverse these indicators. Until we get the political will to implement what we know works, we’re not going to make any headway on changing the trajectory of this tragedy of cataclysmic proportions,” the youngest son of the late Senator Ted Kennedy warned.
His statement was followed in an interview with U.S. News by observations that outlined part of the problem with how America’s health system treats the symptoms contributing to the life expectancy downturn. The correlation between drug overdoses and life expectancy aren’t entirely mutual, but are definitely playing a large role, according to Kennedy.
“If this were some other illness that evoked the same type of compassion that other illnesses receive, we would be spending dramatically more money to combat these rising suicide and overdose rates. Everybody thinks it’s a lot of money, but even the most generous accounts leave it at less than a fifth of what we were spending on HIV during the height of the crisis—a far cry from what we see with other diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.”
The causes for the increase are complex and cannot just be summed up with a single finger pointing at a single reason. Pharmaceutical companies that lobbied in the 90’s for more widespread use of opioid based drugs like oxycodone have come to contribute a large part, if not majority, of why heroin use and fentanyl deaths are as high as they are in 2018, especially since the majority of heroin addicts in treatment today have said their substance abuse began with prescription drugs. Depression partially caused by repeated economic crashes and wage stagnation have only exacerbated those looking for help, especially in a health system that still doesn’t treat mental illness as seriously as physical illness, despite having the same outcomes of death for many who are left untreated.
Concluding the interview, Kennedy told U.S. News, “We have not imposed enough liability on the part of insurers to make them do what they need to do, and that’s to follow the law and to save these lives.”
If you or someone you know could be suffering from substance abuse disorder, an addiction help center can provide diagnosis and treatment options. Drug addiction help centers treat addiction and its underlying causes as well as focus on relapse prevention. Call the drug addiction hotline number of Northbound of Newport Beach at 866-311-0003 to speak confidentially with a professional specialist counselor.