Is Drug Rehabilitation the Best Way to Fight Drug Addiction?
Maybe America needs a more effective strategy for fighting drug abuse
These days, many people - even celebrities and professional athletes - go to drug rehab, often making headlines in the process. On a personal note, many if not most Americans have a friend or relative who has either gone to rehab or is there now. Thus America’s prevailing wisdom seems to be that if you have a drug problem - go to rehab.
Well, does rehab work?
Depending on which source you cite, drug rehabilitation works anywhere from 15 to 90 per cent of the time. In an article for the Web site OSI – Baltimore, the current success rate for addicts - defined by someone who has stayed drug free for a year - is about 40 per cent.
Is 40 per cent good enough? Let’s do some research on the issue and see if it is.
History of Drug Rehabilitation in the U.S.
Bill Wilson and Bob Smith founded Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935. In the following years, the various members of AA developed the Twelve Step program. In 1946, the organization added the Twelve Traditions, which stress that members remain anonymous in public media and avoid involvement in public issues and religious affiliations.
In 1953, Jimmy Kinnon founded Narcotics Anonymous. An offshoot of AA, the organization utilizes both the Twelve-Step program and Twelve Traditions. As of May 2010, there were over 58,000 NA weekly meetings in 31 countries.
President Richard Nixon, who declared an “all-out war on Drugs,” was the first American President to see the value of addiction treatment programs and also provide federal funds for such treatment. In 1971, Nixon requested $155 million targeted for treatment of drug addicts, particularly American soldiers returning from the Vietnam War addicted to drugs such as heroin.
Then in the 1980s President Ronald Reagan dismantled Nixon’s program. “Just say no to drugs” became the mantra of the Reagan administration – just in time for the crack cocaine epidemic that struck the country about the same time.
In 1994, the Rand study analyzed various strategies for combating drug addiction in the United States, particularly as it relates to use of cocaine. The study found that drug treatment options were overwhelming more cost effective than source control, interdiction and domestic law enforcement.
The same year, the state of California produced the study known as the California Drug and Alcohol Treatment Assessment (CALDATA), which found that for every dollar spend on drug treatment programs, the state saved $7 in health care and crime costs. CALDATA estimated than in California drug abuse cost the state over $3 billion per year, 70 per cent of which was costs associated with crime.
Types of Drug Rehabilitation
Rehabilitation Centers, of which there are thousands across the U.S., provide drug rehabilitation to anyone who can pay for the service. The National Substance Abuse Treatment Services Survey estimates that the average cost of rehab is about $7,000 per month and perhaps as high as $36,000 for a 90-day program. Needless to say, many people cannot afford such exorbitant costs, but health insurance may pay for some of it.
These centers provide detox for the physically addicted, as well as addiction treatment and relapse prevention. Aftercare services for sober living may also be provided. But keep in mind that anything extra, such as your own counselor, will cost you more. It’s also possible to get your own Sober Coach, but this is very expensive. (Incidentally, in the middle 1980s members of the band Aerosmith used a sober coach for a time.) For more information about finding a rehab center, click on the following link: http://www.rehabs.com/about/residential-inpatient-programs/
Fortunately, cheap or free treatment options are available. The Salvation Army has a drug rehabilitation program - paid for by donations - that is free to participants. Entry requires a lengthy interview and a six-month commitment. You can’t beat free.
Other programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous cost the addict no money to take part. Both organizations use the 12-Step program, which invokes the help of God or a Higher Power as necessary for becoming clean and sober. These programs also utilize the disease concept of addiction. However, such strategies may not be scientific enough for some participants, because, after all, it’s impossible to “catch” drug addiction if you’ve never used drugs!
More scientific or imaginative techniques for attaining sobriety include acupuncture, acupressure, laser therapy, electro stimulation, massage, meditation and yoga. And maintenance therapies may include the use of drugs such as methadone, buprenorphine, ibogaine or naltrexone (an opioid antagonist).
This is the current state of rehab in the United States.
Does Portugal have the answer?
In 2001, Portugal decriminalized the possession of all drugs for personal use. The only penalties for such possession are administrative in nature and only involve small fines or community service.
As of 2014, statistics have indicated that since this change of policy, HIV and Hepatitis B and C infections have decreased and drug-related deaths have also decreased, while drug use in general has also decreased. The crime rate has decreased too, dramatically reducing the size of Portugal’s prison population.
Portugal’s new strategy has been to fight drug addiction by making it a health issue rather than a criminal one. People who use drugs can be given treatment and access to reintegration programs, but they don’t have to do anything in particular about their drug use.
Critics disagree with these claims of success, saying the statistics are not accurate. Interestingly, 25 other countries have introduced similar drug decriminalization policies.
For more information regarding this issue, please click on this link.
Could another strategy work better for the US?
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, drug abuse costs Americans $484 billion per year. So it appears rehab, as effective or ineffective as it may be, isn’t working well enough to rid the country of drug abuse.
Perhaps a better strategy is drug abuse education in public and private schools. At this point, drug education in America’s public schools could certainly be more extensive. Programs such as Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) make an attempt to educate children about the dangers of drug abuse. However, this program has numerous detractors, so perhaps other models would work better or at least be acceptable to more people. The Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools offers numerous programs and grants designed to ensure the safety of students in America’s schools.
Whatever programs are used, education seems to be the most effective weapon in the battle against drug abuse in America. If children were sufficiently educated about the dangers of drug abuse, drug traffickers could offer bales of free heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine and no child would take any of it. Then drug source control and interdiction, as well as incarceration of drug offenders and rehab would be totally unnecessary.
There needs to be a massive campaign to educate America’s children about the dangers of drug abuse!
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© 2011 Kelley Marks