Access to funds increases substance abuse and drug-related death

In 1996 U.S. Federal legislation ended paying disability benefits for drug addiction because it was thought that addicts were using most of the money to purchase drugs. Scott D. Halpern, BS, and C. Crawford Mechem MD. has found that the drug related death rate for those receiving welfare disability and military benefits, is highest at the beginning of the month when these individuals receive their cheques, and tapers off as they use up their allotment.

In the same publication, a commentary on the study by Jeffrey Samet, MD MA, MPH, begins by stating, ‘Any physician who has spent even a short period of time caring for patients in an emergency department recognizes how common substance abuse is among these patients. This phenomenon has been documented in the emergency medicine literature for both psychiatric and medical problems’. Dr. Samet wrote further that the Halpem-Mechem study provided more credibility to the hypothesis that disposable income in the hands of someone with alcohol or drug problems may result in greater consumption of problem substances and stated that he believed “This work raised the possibility of new ways to minimize the harmful consequences of substance abuse by addressing a potential relapse trigger or exacerbating factor, the monthly federal cheque,” thinking, perhaps, about the use of vouchers or a debit card which would work only for specific purchases, a strategy that has been used to curb the misuse and trafficking in food stamps.

Drug use is accompanied by poor decision making, irresponsible behaviour, violence, increased illness, unemployment, and poverty. It is, therefore, understandable why the vast majority of those serving time in jails and prisons are there for crimes committed under the influence of mind-altering and addictive substances.

Source: Scott D. Halpern, BS, and C. Crawford Mechem MD, The American Journal of Medicine, Vol. 110 Apr 1, 2001

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