Healthcare is Sick

Is there a cure?

The war on drugs: a costly and ineffective oxymoron

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[listen to the portion of my interview with Sally Linowski that corresponds to this blog post here]

The government has fought the ‘war on drugs’ since the 1980s in an attempt to make Americans feel safe.  Unfortunately this ‘war’ made the problem worse as it often treats a disease- drug addiction- with prison.

Sally Linowski, Director of University Health Service’s Center for Health Promotion, said unless an addict receives treatment while in prison, chances are they will start using again upon their release.

“Even if they come out with the best intent and say ‘I’m going to go back home and make a different life for myself’… they have a criminal record, and chances are they haven’t pursued their education, they don’t have anywhere to live, they don’t have an income”, which Linowski said is a dangerous combination for a former addict, as they are likely to seek the substances that brought them pleasure before.

Stats back Linowski up.  For example, only three percent of those who complete New Jersey’s drug rehabilitation program return to prison within three years, compared with a 60 percent rate of recidivism for inmates who do not receive treatment.

Treatment is not only more effective, it is also cheaper.  According to a 1994 study by the Rand Corporation, every dollar invested in substance abuse treatment saves taxpayers more than $7 in societal costs, while additional domestic law enforcement costs 15 times as much as treatment to achieve the same reduction in societal costs.

“We know what works for drug and alcohol prevention,” Linowski said.  “If we increase the protective factors and decrease the risk factors we are going to have less addiction…  If we funded prevention the way we should and had treatment available on demand I think we would have a lot less need for criminal prosecution.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides an exhaustive list of these risk and protective factors.

Risk Factors Domain Protective Factors
Early Aggressive Behavior Individual Self-Control
Poor Social Skills Individual Positive Relationships
Lack of Parental Supervision Family Parental Monitoring and Support
Substance Abuse Peer Academic Competence
Drug Availability School Anti-Drug Use Policies
Poverty Community Strong Neighborhood Attachment

Written by Chris Russell

November 6, 2009 at 4:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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