The fact that addiction counselors in California who are sex offenders and other types of felons are allowed to provide addiction treatment is just the tip of the iceberg in a fundamentally flawed system of addiction care throughout the United States.
Addiction is a complex disease for which there are effective, evidence-based treatments. But unlike other diseases, the majority of the 40 million people in need of treatment do not receive anything that approximates evidence-based care.
Most health professionals are not trained to treat addiction, and most treatment providers are not required to have medical training. There is no other disease in which appropriate treatments are known but not provided by and regulated through the healthcare system.
Until we face the fact that addiction is a disease and treat it accordingly, high-quality care will remain out of reach and the cost to taxpayers will continue to rise.
The writer is the associate director of policy research and analysis at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.