It has been six decades since the period when doctors determined that addiction was a disease that could be treated but the condition still dwells on the fringe of the medical community. Only 1 cent of every dollar spent towards health care in the United State goes towards addiction and few alcoholics and drug addicts are even able to receive the treatment that they need. One barrier has been a lack of health insurance; however, that barrier is set to crumble in less than a year. 3 million to 5 million people with drug and alcohol problems will become eligible for insurance coverage under the new healthcare overhaul.

The number of people who are seeking treatment could double over the current amounts, depending on how many states decide to expand their Medicaid programs and how many addicts choose to take advantage of the new opportunity. The Associated Press analysis compared federal data on the addiction rates in the 50 states, the provisions of the new health law, and the capacity of treatment programs. The surge in patients is expected to push many people out of church basements and into the medical care facilities instead. The prospect of more paying patients has prompted private equity firms to increase their investments in addiction treatment companies.

Those who are eager to work towards a new chance at sobriety may find that there's a different reality behind the opportunity. The system for treating substance abuse is small and full to overflowing in many places. It is publicly funded and run by counselors that don't always have enough medical training. In more than two thirds of states, treatment clinics are approaching 100 percent capacity. The demands posed by the new opportunity could swamp the system before half of the newly insured people are able to get any type of treatment. This could cause wait lists that could last for months.

Many of the rehab centers have been shrinking over the years instead of growing because there were numerous government budget cuts for patients who were receiving public support. In the coming years, medical colleges and treatment programs will face more pressure to push towards creating a larger system. Until that point, addiction treatment is going to represent an extreme example associated with the Affordable Care Act's challenges; being able to provide the care that people were told they would be able to receive. There are already a large amount of people with substance problems who are waiting eagerly for January when they will be able to get coverage.

It has been said that having insurance can mean the difference between getting a spot with a treatment facility or having to wait indefinitely for public help which may not become available. Because money for treatment is limited, many of the slots in rehab centers and hospitals have been scarce. Only around 10 percent of the 23 million Americans with drug and alcohol problems are able to receive treatment according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

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