It’s a new year and with it comes the desire to do more for ourselves, our families, and society. Hopefully, we learned some things in the past year that will help us create effective solutions to problems, improve the quality of life for the less fortunate, and generate a better sense of togetherness as a nation. Among the many things on our “to do” list, winning the battle against substance abuse should be at the top.
In a report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Drug Report, research shows that the adverse consequences of substance abuse are more widespread and severe than previously thought. For instance, estimates show that the number of opioid users is 53 million and these drugs cause about two-thirds of the 585,000 drug-related deaths.
On a global scale, more than 11 million people abused injectible drugs in 2017. Of those, about 1.4 million have HIV and another 5.6 million suffer from hepatitis C. Not to mention the economic costs that soared to reach over $696 billion in 2018. So, what have we learned in the past and where do we go from here in winning the never-ending war on drugs?
What We Learned in the Past Decade
It’s no surprise that the drug problem is evolving and escalating at unprecedented rates. The types of substances and the amounts available are more potent and plentiful than ever before in the history of substance abuse. According to UNODC, drug use is:
“A complex, multifactorial health disorder characterized by a chronic and relapsing nature that requires a multidisciplinary and comprehensive response, including diversified pharmacological and psychosocial interventions.”
With that definition in mind, let’s look at some of the things that we’ve learned in the past decade about winning the battle against substance abuse:
- Detention and punishment don’t always work. As the length of prison sentences grew drug arrests rose 53% in ten years. But, studies show that about 85% of those individuals leave prison or jail and return to using. Comparatively, about 75% of drug offenders remained arrest-free two years after receiving drug treatment.
- Eradicating the source fuels the problem. Eliminating drugs at the point of production (crops) can foster human rights violations, political instability, and social conflict thus benefiting smaller, armed illicit producers.
- Treatment programs are not created equal. A substance abuse program should encompass a variety of treatment approaches that seek to improve a person’s cognitive skills, build self-esteem, and provide a safe environment for healing. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in some facilities. Many individuals may fail at one program, but they reach recovery with a comprehensive treatment plan that provides compassion, professionalism, and evidence-based methodologies.
Treatment vs Incarceration: Can it Work?
Studies show that if only 10 percent of individuals with drug-related offenses received professional treatment, more than $4.9 billion would be saved. Exponentially, sending 40 percent to treatment saves as much as $12.9 billion, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The US is called the “incarceration nation.” We make up only 5 percent of the global population but have more than 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.
Every 25 seconds, someone is arrested in America for drug possession. Clearly, a lot of money is spent without gaining anything beneficial in return.
What’s Next in Winning the Battle Against Substance Abuse?
The most significant changes come when we as a nation overcome the stigma associated with substance abuse. No one intentionally sets out to become an addict or an overdose statistic. These individuals have a medical disorder that requires proven intervention methods just like any other medical condition. Let’s work together to help these individuals restore their quality of life and return to being productive citizens again.
Every 16 minutes someone in the US dies from an opioid overdose. If you know someone who needs help with substance abuse, please contact us at Awakenings Rehabilitation. This phone call could save a life. Do your part in winning the battle against substance abuse.
unodc.org – World Drug Report 2019
knowledgecenter.csg.org – Drug Abuse in the States: Incarceration
bop.gov – Federal Bureau of Prisons Statistics: Offenses