Since elected officials have repeatedly proven that they are far more likely to lock up a drug addict then offer needed help, we need to change the way we try to improve access to treatment.
There are tens of millions of Americans with substance abuse problems requiring professional intervention, and only a small percentage of these people are getting the help that they need.
While undoubtedly a significant percentage of these people have the means to afford drug treatment, and for whatever reason choose not to get it; it is estimated that about 30% of these people, or many millions of Americans, have no health insurance coverage nor have the financial capabilities to afford comprehensive drug treatment expenses.
The fact that so many millions of Americans are slipping through the health coverage cracks in our Country should appeal to our humanitarian natures and induce a desire to enact change; but even if we view the issue callously and economically, we still come out far ahead by reducing the barriers to treatment entry.
Substance abuse cost’s Americans hundreds of billions of dollars a year in criminal and justice, health care and reduced productivity costs; and conservative estimates have 1$ spent on treatment reaping an eventual 7$ savings in societal costs. Since the numbers seem so overwhelmingly in favor of enacting social and economic change towards better treatment access, why are we not spending more public tax dollars on the very sound investment of drug treatment?
"Because drug treatments don’t work"
Well actually they do work, and drug rehab programs save countless thousands of lives a year…but the nature of addiction is such that often a single period of drug treatment doesn’t induce permanent change, and thus the treatment statistics per individual rehab visit are not particularly encouraging. It’s hard for public officials to publicly commit great resources to programs with such low success rates, and since incarceration and "getting tough on crime" are so much easier to sell to the electorate, we are continually enacting short sighted and ineffective policies.
I think that ideally we should divert a massive influx of dollars into both treatment programs and addictions research, but since I don’t think that this is likely to occur lacking enormous political will; we should instead concentrate on increasing spending into addictions research. We need to develop better pharmacological and treatment interventions, and once we do have something more concrete to offer, something that does increase the recovery rates per individual rehab visit, then I feel that the political motivation to fund needed substance abuse programming will materialize.
So get out the pen and paper, and if you’ve been touched by addiction either yourself or through the pains of a loved one, empathize with those that still need help, and let your State and Federal elected officials know that the funding of addictions treatment research is important to you.
How many more billions are spent in the development of hair loss, and erectile dysfunction medications than in all addictions research combined? Not that government funded Viagra trials…but still, it’s funny how our priorities can get so distorted.