SUBSTANCE ABUSE: Treatment Is Effective, Study Shows
The first nationally representative study of substance abuse treatment confirms that both substance abuse and criminal behavior are reduced for at least five years following inpatient, outpatient and residential drug abuse treatment. The Services Research Outcomes Study was conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Researchers interviewed 1,799 people five years after they were discharged from treatment. The respondents underwent substance abuse treatment at 99 facilities selected from a random sample of treatment programs across the nation. The study confirmed a 21% reduction in the use of any illicit drug, a 14% decline in alcohol use, a 28% decrease in marijuana use, a 45% drop in cocaine use, a 17% reduction in crack use and a 14% decrease in heroin use. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala said, "These research findings confirm numerous past studies establishing the critical importance and success of substance abuse treatment programs" (release, 9/9).
Take The Drug Czar's Advice
White House Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey added that "one million people who were in drug treatment programs last year averted 'a gigantic amount of damage to American society'" (Davis, USA Today, 9/10). McCaffrey emphasized, however, the importance of ongoing treatment and support. "If you're not going to NA or AA, you're in trouble," he said (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 9/10). He also noted that the study exposed flaws in treatment of young people, whose alcohol use increased 14% and crack use increased 200% after treatment. "We're not very smart about dealing with children. We have got to do better on dealing with adolescent drug addiction behavior because they are costing us a fortune" (Fox, Reuters/Nando Times, 9/9).
McCaffrey used the findings to urge Congress for increased funding of drug treatment programs, specifically asking for $200 million for the Substance Abuse Block Grant Program and $85 million for the Justice Department's drug intervention budget (Washington Times, 9/10). Reuters/Nando Times notes that the $200 million has already been voted down in both House and Senate committee action. McCaffrey said, "If we don't put that $200 million investment into it, I guarantee you there is going to be increased suffering and you and I are going to pay for it." He said about four million people are "screwed up beyond belief" by addiction, adding, "We manage them through emergency rooms and the prison system. If they get HIV ... we'll probably pay a quarter of a million dollars to manage them through a painful death. ... [Treatment] certainly works better than locking them up" (9/10). McCaffrey also said he supports a bill by Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-MN) that would mandate that private insurance plans cover substance abuse treatment on equal terms with other conditions (Washington Times, 9/10).
Medical Marijuana Beat
Supporters of medical marijuana have successfully placed the question on the November ballot in Nevada. Question 9 "would allow a patient, on advice of a doctor, to use marijuana to relieve symptoms of major diseases including cancers, glaucoma, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and the effects of treatments such as chemotherapy." It would create a "confidential registry" of patients who are approved to use the drug (AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal, 9/8). Separately, supporters of a similar initiative in Colorado "will argue in court Friday that Secretary of State Vikki Buckley incorrectly kept the measure off the Nov. 3 ballot." Coloradans for Medical Rights will ask a district judge to overturn a "sloppy and inaccurate" July review of 89,000 signatures the group submitted. Buckley's staff found that less than 90% were valid (Boyle, Colorado Springs Gazette, 9/10).