April 15th, 2009
01:32 PM ET

The cost of addiction

By David S. Martin
CNN Medical Senior Producer

Planted along the wooded road leading to Hazelden’s main campus in Center City, Minnesota, are three wooden signs, each bearing a single word: Easy. Does. It. Treating addiction is seldom easy, though.

Angela Puckett came here after an overdose of alcohol and painkillers nearly killed her. She had spent her life as a self-proclaimed party girl. She arrived at Hazelden hoping 28 days there would begin her road to recovery.

In “Addiction: Life on the Edge”, which airs Saturday and Sunday, April 18 and 19 at 8 p.m. ET and 11 p.m. ET, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta profiles Puckett and three other addicts trying to rebuild their lives. During the year CNN followed them, one relapsed, showing just how difficult recovery can be.

On a campus that resembles a small college, patients at Hazelden go to individual and group therapy, attend lectures, and reflect. Puckett was lucky. Her insurance covered Hazelden, where the typical stay costs $26,000. Only half of insurance plans pay for residential rehab.

Four years after she arrived at Hazelden, Puckett is back at work and back as a devoted mother to her son. “I know I’d be dead if it wasn’t for Hazelden,” Puckett told CNN. “Hazelden gave me my life back.”

“Addiction: Life on the Edge” also profiles:

* Lucy Gross, a 17-year-old who attends one of a growing number of high schools specially designed for addicts in recovery.

* Walter Kent, a retiree who ended four decades of addiction to alcohol by taking a pill.

* Nic Sheff, a young writer who chronicled his addiction to methamphetamine and other drugs and the toll it took on his family in the book, “Tweak.”

The federal government estimates there are 23 million Americans who abuse drugs or alcohol, costing more than $500 billion in healthcare, criminal justice and lost productivity.

Do you think insurance companies should be required to cover drug or alcohol treatment? How about residential treatment like Puckett’s?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.