Monday, October 26, 2009
How much is your life worth or the life of someone dear to you? The United States spends nearly $500 billion annually to help in the fight against addiction and sadly the money is poorly managed which leaves very little room for success. Alcohol and drug addiction is perhaps the hardest disease to treat and is certainly the disease that is the least understood. 105,000 Americans each year die as a result of complications directly related to drugs and alcohol, that number is higher than traffic accident related deaths in over 15 states. The cost of even attempting to start a new life, one free of addiction, is staggering; because of that it is very difficult for most addicts to get the treatment that they need. Sadly, treatments controlled by the state are not managed properly and their success rate is minimal; for those who can afford to go to private pay drug treatment facilities success rates are much higher. Substance Abuse Emergency Detox Cost over $1,300, and clearly most bottom of the barrel drunks do not have that kind of money lying around. With an annual bill of 500 billion dollars, one would think that the state organized treatment options would have better numbers - where is the money going?
The Times Union of Albany New York reported that, "of each dollar spent, 96 cents goes to the criminal justice system and health care costs, 'shoveling up the wreckage' in the phrase of a recent study by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. Less than 4 cents of every dollar goes to prevention, treatment and research, 'a reckless misapplication of public funds,' the study concluded". Unfortunately, the majority of state funds go towards a group of repeat offenders who have been to: detox, treatment, jail, and hospitals several times over. "In Albany County, about $12 million, mostly state funds, is spent each year where about 100 individuals chronically addicted to alcohol and drugs consume the bulk of services and funding. They typically also are homeless, mentally ill and suffer from a myriad of physical ailments", according to the Times Union. About have of that number, 43, people can be seen in emergency room detox units with blood alcohol content levels around .30% as much as two dozen times a month. If you do the math, at $1,300 a day per person, the bill could reach $26,000 a month.
I cannot help but think that 4 cents on the dollar is not enough funding to make any head way in the prevention, treatment, and research of addiction. Perhaps if the state funding was allocating properly, the chances for individual success and less repeat offenders could be possible. The disease of addiction has been around since the dawn of civilization and is not going anywhere; if we use more money for research and less for imprisonment perhaps more lives could be saved every year from this terrible affliction. The tools are available for people to make a successful recovery, but, unfortunately people are not using those tools to their fullest potential or are not being properly taught how to harness the power of them. Until the United States figures out how to allocate spending appropriately, the longer unnecessary deaths will continue.