Recovery Month Guest Blogger: Congressman Tim Ryan

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Congressman Tim RyanAs we celebrate National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month this September, it is imperative to remember that recovery from addiction is possible. I commend the men and women who have made the difficult choice to get help and have begun the hard journey towards recovery. As Co-Chair of the Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus, I understand the importance of raising awareness and increasing education regarding substance abuse and addiction treatment.

The Affordable Care Act improved on the Mental Health Parity Act, and will make major changes and improvements in the way insurance companies cover treatment for addiction. I was proud to vote for both of these groundbreaking pieces of legislation. Addiction is a disease and it is time for insurance companies around the country to start treating people with this illness fairly.

However, this is just beginning. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 23.5 million people aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse problem in 2009, and only 2.6 million (11.2 percent of those who needed treatment) received it at a specialty facility.

These men and women deserve Congress’ full support in continuing to fund prevention programs, such as the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) Block Grant and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Each year substance abuse and mental health disorders take a terrible toll on people and families around the country. The SAPT Block Grant alone provides on average 42 percent of a state’s substance abuse expenditure.

This issue is also a pressing concern with our service men and women. The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that combined with PTSD and TBI, substance abuse is a key concern with returning veterans. Prescription drug abuse has doubled among U.S. military personnel from 2002-2005 and tripled between 2005-2008. Now is not the time to turn our backs on the men and women who have already sacrificed so much for our country.

We need to look at innovative solutions, as I write in my book A Mindful Nation, to tackle such a growing issue. I am a major supporter of  mindfulness meditation, a practice that can yield great benefits in the field of addiction. Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention initiatives developed by the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington are just a few examples of how these practices are being successfully targeted to aid individuals in recovery from substance abuse..

Mindfulness meditation can also be used to help returning soldiers and veterans deal with addiction and depression by discovering the emotional causes of these issues and addressing fear, anxiety, and pessimism. In our work with the Military, Mental Health, and Suicide Prevention Caucus, my colleagues and I are promoting these types of innovative solutions. These practices help us become more aware, allow us to fully participate in the present, and give us the ability to observe without judging.

Recovery Month reminds us that while recovery is possible, there is still much we can do to help overcome addiction. I look forward to working with our communities in the future to help tackle this important issue.

Congressman Tim Ryan
Congressional Addiction, Treatment, and Recovery Caucus
Military, Mental Health, and Suicide Prevention Caucus

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