The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse has issued a major report on 2005 Federal and state spending to combat substance abuse and addiction to tobacco, alcohol and drugs.

             The introduction states:

For every dollar federal and state

governments spent to prevent and treat

substance abuse and addiction, they spent

$59.83 in public programs shoveling up its

wreckage.

             The report concludes that 96.5% of the money was spent on direct health care costs and police functions including Medicare, Medicaid, federal prisons, schools, child welfare, income assistance and other federal programs.

             Only 3.5% was devoted to prevention and early intervention in matters of smoking, drug abuse, and under-age and excessive drinking (e.g., early childhood education); and research (e.g. examining the possible impact of decriminalization). [1]

             Joseph A. Califano, Jr., the Founder and Chairman, declares the following:

Of every dollar federal and state governments

spent on substance abuse and addiction in 2005,

95.6 cents went to shoveling up the wreckage

and only 1.9 cents on prevention and treatment,

0.4 cents on research, 1.4 cents on taxation or

regulation and 0.7 cents on interdiction.

 

Under any circumstances spending more than 95

percent of taxpayer dollars on the consequences

of tobacco, alcohol and other drug abuse and

addiction and less than two percent to relieve

individuals and taxpayers of this burden would

be considered a reckless misallocation of public

funds. In these economic times, such upsidedown-

cake public policy is unconscionable.


            This distortion of spending priorities is like a photographic image that is almost totally over-exposed. The histogram, a graph of tonal distribution, would display a horizontal line that was low and flat until the extreme right, where it would shoot up vertically.

            Other analogies come to mind. There is the fallacy that we can advance our goals in Pakistan’s Northwest Provinces with unmanned drones; or eradicate roaches by swatting them on a kitchen counter.

            Here is the bottom line: Unless we divert far greater financial resources to research and to the treatment of addiction in the United States; our substance-related spending on medical care, prosecution and punishment will have little impact on either preventing or minimizing this serious mental health problem.

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            In a front page story May 31, 2009 by Randal C. Archibold, the New York Times reports on “War Without Borders; In Heartland Death, Traces of Heroin’s Spread” :

The authorities say that local arrests rarely make a difference. New dealers pop up within weeks. It’s like sweeping sunshine off the roof,” Mr. [Anthony C.] Marotta [head of the Columbus, Ohio office] of the D.E.A. said.


[1] Virginia spent 9.4% of its budget on tackling substance abuse and addiction in 2005. Of only five (5) states that spent less, (SC, AR, SD, WV and WY), none includes a large urban population. In the areas of prevention, treatment and research, only seven (7) states spent less than Virginia in 2005.