Study: Substance-abuse funding skimps on prevention

 COST OF SUBSTANCE  The breakdown on federal and state money for substance abuse and addiction (numbers don’t add up to 100% due to rounding):
     95.6% Health care/assistance/prosecution
      2.4% Prevention/treatment/research
      1.4% Regulation/compliance
      0.7% Interdiction (federal only)
Source: The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University
 
Most of the taxpayer money devoted to combating alcohol and drug abuse goes to cleaning up its consequences, while only about 2% of the funding is used for prevention, says a report from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.
The study found that 96% of the $467.7 billion a year that federal, state and local governments spend on substance abuse is used to deal with consequences such as crime and homelessness.
Of that money, according to the report, governments spend the most on health care costs associated with substance abuse (58%) followed by the costs of prosecuting and jailing the offenders (13.1%).
“The killer finding is that we are spending 96 cents of every dollar we spend on substance abuse and addiction to shovel up the human wreckage,” says Joseph Califano Jr., founder and chairman of CASA. “We’re making this really tiny investment in prevention and treatment when we have enough experience to know that prevention and treatment can reduce the shoveling-up burden.”
Researchers determined spending amounts by analyzing federal, state and local budgets for the year 2005, the most recent year that complete data were available, Califano says.
“These governments have it backwards,” he says. “They’re wasting billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money and not making some relatively simple investments that could sharply reduce the consequences of drug and alcohol addiction.”
Califano says the main reason that federal and state governments aren’t ready to change priorities is because there is a stigma attached to alcohol and drug addiction.
To reduce the amount spent on substance abuse, Califano says, the government needs to “mount major prevention programs,” with a focus on kids.
He adds that increasing taxes on alcohol and training doctors to talk to patients about their substance use also will help decrease associated costs.
“This is a problem we can deal with. We know a lot more about it than we knew years ago,” Califano says.
Source: USA Today 27th May 2009

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