The choice is simple: treat drug addicts now, or pay for the rest of their problems later

Drug addiction fuels so many other societal ills — homelessness, mental illness, crime, child abuse and neglect, and a host of other health problems — that you would think as a society we’d have come to terms with it as a problem that requires solutions that are complex yet relatively cheap compared to what it costs us down the road. A recovering drug addict is often a better parent. A more compliant parolee. A better student. A tax-paying citizen. An employee with health insurance that pays for their health care rather then leaving taxpayers with the bill.

Yet despite simple and overwhelming scientific evidence, it is a never-ending source of confusion for me when I hear people say, “The solution is simple. Someone just needs to be smart enough to stop abusing drugs” — as if having a PhD somehow inoculates someone from being an alcoholic or coke addict.

This article from ThinkProgress highlights an acute and chronic problem:

Largely left out of the conversation, however, is access — or the lack thereof — to addiction treatment. Even though American overdose deaths surpass deaths from car accidents and other injuries, only 11 percent of the 22.7 million Americans who needed drug or alcohol treatment in 2013 actually received it, according to data compiled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

1920s --- A close up of a young woman snorting cocaine during the 1920s. --- Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

A close up of a young woman snorting cocaine during the 1920s. — Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

“We know addiction treatment saves lives, reduces drug use, reduces criminal activity and improves employment,” Paul Samuels, president and director of the Legal Action Center, which advocates on behalf of people with HIV or addiction, told USA Today. “The data is there, the evidence is in, but our public policy has not caught up with the science.”

Substance abuse costs the nation more than $600 billion annually, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Right now, two cents of every dollar spent to combat abuse goes to treatment, with the rest paying for hospital care, jails and courts, according to a report from a Columbia University addiction center.

Experts say that preventing addiction, rather than simply reacting to it, could have great social and health benefits that translate into cost savings, specifically when it comes to the criminal justice system. Estimates show that every dollar invested into an addiction program yields between $4 and $7 in reduced drug-related crime, criminal justice costs, and theft. Ultimately, savings will eclipse initial costs by a 12 to 1 ratio, mainly through the reduction of interpersonal conflicts, overdoses, and death.

I am just one person, and I know of several people — good, kind, funny, intelligent people who were working and paying taxes and often making the world a better place — who have died of drug-related overdoses and incidents. I think of at least one of them every day.

Every dollar an addict spends on drugs is a dollar that will most likely cost society much more in the future.

The day most of us start responding that this is a medical problem rather than an issue of character or sheer will for incarceration to “solve” but often make worse is the day we start saving money and lives.

(An aside: Yes, I know that incarceration after a drug binge has been what is widely termed as “rock bottom” for many people — the point where they know they are messed up and finally seek help. I am not implying that incarceration never works. But our personal stories are not scientific data nor proof of anything other than the fact that incarceration works — some times. But if you look at data about those same people who quit and then did not enter into any sort of counseling or treatment program to keep them safe and sober, you’d discover that the recidivism rate is dismal. The problems that brought them into substance abuse are still there, waiting in the shadows, to snag them again. Drug treatment is not simply about stopping drugs. It’s also about figuring out what caused you to start abusing in the first place and then learning to deal with those issues either psychosocially or medically or both.)

via Drug Abuse Is Soaring, But Addiction Treatment Is Hard To Find | ThinkProgress.

They always manage to leave something out when they thank the troops

It’s fine to thank the troops. They should be thanked. But it seems like so much jingoism if you don’t point out that the best way to honor them is to not start any wars, fake or otherwise, and stop pouring so much money into scammy billion-dollar defense contractors so the Republicans might — just might, don’t hold your breath — stop cutting programs for returning veterans they claim to care so much about.

It’s not the most helpful thing people can do if they remember Veterans’ and Memorial days and then stop paying attention the rest of the time.