We all know that people abusing drugs and alcohol exhibit selfish behavior, as the ramifications of their actions cost the rest of our country billions of dollars each year. Many people feel that too much of that money is spent on law enforcement and criminal justice rather than substance abuse and mental health treatment and prevention services.
About $190 billion a year is spent on the drug abuse epidemic in our country, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). Individual businesses report a loss of $130 billion in lost productivity due to drug issues. Annually, $20 billion is spent on healthcare associated with drug abuse, which includes publicly-funded treatment centers, emergency room visits, medications and detox stays are all part of the healthcare price tag. The legal system eats up about $40 billion in costs due to prosecution of offenders, public defenders, incarceration, law enforcement and special programs within the police force aimed to combat drug abuse.
Half of the children in the foster system were placed there due to at least one parent being an addict. In some areas, the amount of crimes committed that are associated with drug use or the sale of drugs has increased 30% over the last decade. Even more staggering is that deaths from drug overdoses have doubled or tripled in many areas just in the last few years.
While street drugs remain popular, prescription painkillers have replaced many other common substances as the main drugs of choice, and a rapidly growing segment includes various types of synthetic drug compounds.
As for the prescriptions, many of these addicts are receiving their pills from doctors. “Pain clinics, not all of them, but some of them, are simply doling out pain medication to people with addictive disease. We need to identify those people with that disease and get them help and not just write them a prescription,” explained Dr. Stephen Loyd, a doctor who has treated many people with addictions to prescription painkillers.
People critical of the overall system are quick to point out that spending more on treatment, prevention and education campaigns would do more to curb the problem than any amount of law enforcement could do long-term. The demand has to be addressed, otherwise there will always be a supply.