Two Million Dollars a piece – The cost of drug use and violence

The average cost to society of a lifelong criminal = About $2 million

I’ll get into more of this in later posts (I already talked about the cost of addiction prevention versus treatment versus enforcement), but if that cost of drug use and violence doesn’t cry out for a better application of money to prevention and addiction treatment, I don’t know what does.

At that cost, even if a treatment method costs $10k per client, it only needs to work for 1 out of 200 people to break even, and benefit society while doing so. In reality, our success rates are much higher than .5% (1/200) and closer to 15%-25%. When you take into account the fact that average cost of a month in addiction treatment (residential, outpatient treatment is much cheaper) is indeed about $7000-$10,000, it seems silly not to avoid the cost of crime by greatly reducing drug use, and hence criminal behavior.

NIDA, the government’s top agency for drug and alcohol abuse research recommends three months of treatment, but even then, success rates as low as 2% would leave us with a profit by providing treatment. Screw it, even a whole year of treatment would save us money if it succeeded but I can tell you that funding for that kind of addiction treatment length is almost non-existent, especially when compared to the actual need.

So with success rates about 20 to 30 times higher than our break-even point, we would literally benefit, and I’m talking financially, from helping people with treatment as expensive as $100,000 or more (as long as it worked). One of the things I’ve learned in all my work has been that while some individuals are actually interested in helping people, yes, even if they’ve been dirty drug addicts who have commited crimes, almost everyone cares about money. So forget for a second about all the social justice arguments to be made for helping addicts and think about the cost savings to our society… It makes sense.

True, true, not all drug users who would enter treatment would become lifelong offender, but if you’re still keeping tabs, even if only 1/20 or so do, we’re more than breaking even here. In fact, with our prison populations exploding as more and more drug users enter the system, I bet we’re in for some real savings.

Citation:

Dodge, K. A. (2008) Framing public policy and prevention of chronic violence in American youths. America Psychologist, 63, 573-590.

The cost of quitting alcohol and drug addiction – treatment tips for addicts

Many users are discouraged by the cost of drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs. The treatment programs that advertise, which are normally the only ones most people hear about (you know them: Passages, Promises, Betty Ford and more) may offer services that are worthwhile, but they may not and consumers have no way to evaluate this as they’re asked to spend tens-of-thousands of dollars per month (as much as $80,000 in some cases). Unfortunately, inpatient treatment is the only form of treatment most people have ever heard of and even though research does show that individuals can get a greater benefit from inpatient treatment, it usually makes a significant difference only for the most difficult addicts to treat, and I mean difficult – injecting drug users, those with numerous previous attempts, multiple time felons, and such. Still, when families contact me, it seems that they overwhelmingly believe that residential is the only way – But they’re wrong.

Many health insurance companies will help cover certain outpatient treatment programs (Like Matrix; Kaiser Permanente has their own) that can  help put the vast majority of those who are seeking addiction treatment on the right track. Many outpatient programs offer great bang-for-your-buck, delivering intensive treatment protocols that are evidence based and can help most addicts get better at a far reduced cost of only a few thousand dollars a month. Anything is better than doing nothing, and taking the first step is always the hardest move. Fact is, many insurance companies will not pay for inpatient or residential addiction treatment until outpatient options have been tried and failed. If clients feel they need the added security of a safe, drug free, residence they can combine outpatient treatment with a good sober living facility (but DO NOT pursue this option for patients with serious mental health issues until you’ve seriously consulted with professionals).

If you’re thinking about quitting, simply making your way to a 12-step meeting in your area can end up opening a whole new world of possibilities, but if that doesn’t work know that there are many more options. If you’re wondering about specific options for yourself or someone you love, feel free to contact me and I’ll do my best to help guide you. If you’re looking for a more anonymous, automatic way of doing some of this searching, make sure to check out our Rehab-Finder, it should help guide you in the right direction. We’re currently going through a real verification process to do some of the quality-assurance legwork for you!

Harm reduction – Why the bad press for addiction treatment that works?!

condoms can help protect again STDs

How many of you think that giving a crystal meth user condoms will increase their drug use? Probably not many. What if instead the question had to do with giving that same user clean needles rather than having them share a dirty one? Or having him reduce his drug use instead of stopping completely? I bet there would be a little more disagreement there.

Some of you may have heard of the harm-reduction approach to drug abuse counseling and treatment, but many of you likely haven’t because the term itself is essentially taboo in the United States. The idea is to approach the patient (or client) without the shaming or expectations of abstinence that normally come with drug treatment. Instead, the counselors hope to reduce as much of the negative things associated with the drug use.

For example, almost all drug injecting users end up with hepatitis C due to dirty-needle sharing. As in the above example, harm reduction practitioners would seek to provide users with clean needles, thereby reducing needle sharing and the transmission of disease. Risky sexual behavior is often associated with methamphetamine, and crack use; instead of targeting the use itself, often, interventions attempt to reduce unprotected sex, reducing HIV transmission in the process.

hypodermic-needleHarm reduction has many supporters, but unfortunately, there are at least as many people who are against it. The claim is that harm reduction doesn’t stop drug use, and that we shouldn’t be in the business of making drug use easier. In fact, though they have no data to support it, some people argue that giving users clean needles is likely to exacerbate their drug use. My argument is that life as a drug user is pretty difficult as is, and if we can provide a way to show drug addicts that people actually care about their well-being, we might help some of them see the light.

Even more to the point, my thinking is that HIV, Hepatitis C, and other conditions often helped by harm-reduction, have to be considered as additional societal costs of drug abuse. If harm reduction helps us tackle those collateral costs, I’m all for it as an additional tool.

The bottom line is this: If we can use multiple tools to solve a problem, why limit ourselves unnecessarily to only one? If harm reduction helps, why not use it in conjunction with abstinence treatment?

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s time for us to stop resorting to ridiculous moral judgments and start focusing on solving the problem. If we can help an addict use less, use fewer drugs, or use more responsibly, I say we should go for it!!!

Crystal meth and cocaine, Agassi and Gasquet- The reality of drug use in our society.

AgassiAfter Andre Agassi’s recent confessions in a tell-tale book about his use of crystal meth during his playing days, Richard Gasquet, who recently made it to the Wimbledon semifinals has just tested positive for cocaine.

He says he was contaminated with the drug when he kissed a woman who was using it.  Right. Unless the woman was covered in an inch thick layer of coke, or unless Gasquet drank about a pint of her heavily intoxicated saliva, we all know that’s a lie. I’m pretty sure the committee now deliberating will come to the same conclusion.

Drug use in our society

The bottom line is that drugs are everywhere, including our star athletes, night-club hopping starlets, and big-time business executives. And in case you haven’t figured this out, they’re not going away. The best we can do is to keep researching the problem so that we can:

  1. Educate the public (educational and dissemination research).
  2. Identify risky users earlier (assessment and genetics research).
  3. Figure out the most effective ways to get them into treatment (intervention research).
  4. Discover the best methods to treat them (clinical and pharmacological research).
  5. Repeat the cycle.

That’s it! That’s all we’ve got. Recreational drug use will most likely continue forever, and I for one think that’s the wrong problem for us to be focusing on.

Interdiction – Our current solution to drug use

Limiting the drug supply, which is a big part of how our government currently deals with the problem, drives up the price of street drugs. This in turn reduces their purity (dealers have to make money) and gets in the way of recreational drug use. So far so good. But guess what?

Addicts don’t care about the cost of drugs.

Trust me, I used to sell them and use. I used to know a lot of other people who did too. Addicts are not making rational decisions based on economic realities. They’ll sell their stuff, lie cheat and steal their way to more drugs. Their brains are no longer depending on rational thinking when it comes to their drug use. That’s pretty much the definition of addiction.

Decriminalization – Our next step

I’m going to write a post soon about the notion of decriminalization. Decriminalization is different from legalization. Making drugs legal is like sanctioning their use – making citizens think the drugs are okay. For the most part, they’re not. But decriminalization would take addicts out of our prisons and give them the treatment they need. I think it’s time we faced the music and dealt with drug use problems at their core, with the people most often negatively affected by them.