Prescription Painkillers Kill More Every Year in USA than Heroin and Cocaine Combined

Overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have skyrocketed in the past decade. Every year, nearly 15,000 people die from overdoses involving these drugs—more than those who die from heroin and cocaine combined.

The abuse of prescription painkillers has risen dramatically in the last 15 years; in 1999 4,000 people were killed by these drugs (less than a third of the current numbers of deaths).

Find more information on prescription drug abuse and treatment options from the United States Center for Disease Control.

Related: Prescription Drug Abuse in the USAPrescription Drug Abuse: Pain Killers Can Lead to AdditionDecline in the Misuse of Prescription Drugs in the USA (reported in 2008, was the data accurate?)Brett Favre Overcomes Painkiller Addiction

What Should Society Do About Drug Addicts That Are Not Seeking Treatment?

What to do about drug addicts that are not interested in treatment (yet?) is open to debate. Strict law enforcement would say that the government shouldn’t provide any support to those that are taking illegal action (taking drugs they can’t legally take). And that argument makes some sense. The biggest problem with it is the results of such policies have not been very effective. Society suffers. Should society suffer because taking action to reduce burdens on society can be seen as taking it easy on criminals?

Denmark offers rooms monitored by nurses for drug addicts to use, and crime seems to have been reduced:

Year on year, burglaries in the wider area are down by about 3%, theft from vehicles and violence down about 5%, and possession of weapons also down. “From the police perspective, I can see the benefits,” said Orye. “It feels calmer.”

Critics say that such rooms make it easier for drug users to abuse themselves and send the wrong message. Only five people using Copenhagen’s room have been put on treatment since October.

Petersen, like many others using the room or floating around the courtyard outside, said that she does not want and would never seek treatment. But every day that she comes here to inject she meets health professionals, social workers and people offering treatment in case she suddenly want to rise from rock bottom, say the room’s staff. Petersen might change her mind one day, said Nanna Gotfredsen, a lawyer who campaigned for the room.

Michael Olsen, a local resident who was a key figure in persuading authorities to accept the idea of a consumption room, said that he felt moved to champion the cause when he found addicts taking drugs in his bins, and women urinating in a phone box because all the toilets in the area had been sealed to stop addicts injecting there.

The best strategies for society are not obvious. The last 50 years have not been a very successful period for society dealing with the problems caused by drug addiction. Hopefully we can experiment and find solutions that are better.

I do think we have moved toward more support for treatment for those seeking help to overcome drug addiction and to stay clean. Moving more in that direction seems wise to me.

Related: UK Drug Policy Commission Recommends Decriminalizing Drug UseRussell Brand’s Testimony on Dealing with Drug AddictionHow Effective is Drug Addiction Treatment?2012 National Drug Control Strategy for the USA

2012 National Drug Control Strategy for the USA

The USA has published their 2012 National Drug Control Strategy. The intro from President Obama includes:

Illicit drug use in America contributed to an estimated $193 billion in crime, health, and lost productivity costs in 2007, the year for which the most recent estimate is available. In today’s challenging economic environment, we cannot afford such a drain on our economy and public resources. While difficult budget decisions must be made at all levels of government, we must ensure continued support for policies and programs that reduce drug use and its enormous costs to American society.

Research has documented that substance use disorder treatment is a sound public investment. For example, a 2006 study found that every dollar spent on treatment yielded an average of seven dollars in costs savings. The majority of these savings came from reduced criminal justice system involvement and increased employment earnings. **Benefit-cost in the California treatment outcome project: Does substance abuse treatment‘pay or itself’? Health Services Research, 41(1), 192-213, 2006**

Other studies document substantial cost-offsets in the healthcare domain alone . Another 2006 study reported a net savings of $2,500 per person per year in Medicaid costs associated with treatment, and a State of Washington report found that treatment yielded a con- servatively estimated $252 per person per month in cost reductions associated with medical care and state and community psychiatric hospitalizations. **The effect of substance abuse treatment on medicaid expenditures among general assistance welfare clients in Washington State, The Milbank Quarterly, 84(3), 555-576, 2006 and Washington State supplemental security income (SSI) cost-offset pilot project: 2002 progress report.

In 2010, an estimated 23.1 million Americans (9.1%) aged 12 or older needed specialized treatment for a substance use disorder, but only 2.6 million (roughly 11.2% of them) received it. We need to stop wasting money and lives and costing our society much more over the long term.

In 2010, over seven million people in the United States were under the supervision of the criminal justice system: over two million incarcerated and the remaining five million on probation or parole.

Compounding the significant expenditures on corrections is the fact that far too many offenders return to drug use and reenter the criminal justice system. Among state prisoners with substance use disorders, 53% had at least three prior sentences to probation or incarceration, compared to 32% of other inmates.

Many offenders deal with a chronic substance use disorder—a disease for which too many are inadequately treated. These offenders need effective substance use disorder and mental health treatment while incarcerated and should continue with recovery support services that assist with employment, housing, medical care, and other support upon their reentry into the community.

Related: UK Drug Policy Commission Recommends Decriminalizing Drug UseDrug Treatment Funding Can More Than Pay For Itself With Reduced Crime CostsImproving Addiction Treatment with The University of Wisconsin – Madison

Prescription Drug Abuse in the USA

Some key findings from the Council of State Governments study on Prescription Drug Abuse in America (from 2004). The report is obviously a bit outdated but the problem continues to grow.

  • More than 6.2 million people were current illicit users of prescription drugs in 2002.
  • In 2001, prescription drug abuse and misuse were estimated to impose approximately $100 billion annually in health care costs.
  • In Florida, there were 328 deaths attributed to heroin overdoses in 2001 compared to 957 deaths due to overdoses of the prescription pain medications. The trend continued in 2002, when more Floridians died from prescription drug overdoses than use of illegal drugs.

Prescription Drugs: Abuse and Addiction from the NIH (revised in 2011).

Although most people take prescription medications responsibly, an estimated 52 million people (20 percent of those aged 12 and older) have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons at least once in their lifetimes.

The number of prescriptions for some of these medications has increased dramatically since the early 1990s. Moreover, a consumer culture amenable to “taking a pill for what ails you” and the perception of prescription drugs as less harmful than illicit drugs are other likely contributors to the problem. It is an urgent one: unintentional overdose deaths involving opioid pain relievers have quadrupled since 1999, and by 2007, outnumbered those involving heroin and cocaine.

Years of research have shown that addiction to any drug (illicit or prescribed) is a brain disease that can be treated effectively. Treatment must take into account the type of drug used and the needs of the individual. Successful treatment may need to incorporate several components, including detoxification, counseling, and sometimes the use of addiction medications. Multiple courses of treatment may be needed for the patient to make a full recovery.

Related: How effective is drug addiction treatment?Center for substance abuse treatment (US HHS)Brett Favre overcomes painkiller addiction

UK Drug Policy Commission Recommends Decriminalizing Drug Use

Decriminalise drug use, say experts after six-year study

A six-year study of Britain’s drug laws by leading scientists, police officers, academics and experts has concluded it is time to introduce decriminalisation.

The report by the UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC), an independent advisory body, says possession of small amounts of controlled drugs should no longer be a criminal offence and concludes the move will not lead to a significant increase in use.

The experts say the criminal sanctions imposed on the 42,000 people sentenced each year for possession of all drugs – and the 160,000 given cannabis warnings – should be replaced with simple civil penalties such as a fine, attendance at a drug awareness session or a referral to a drug treatment programme.

They also say that imposing minimal or no sanctions on those growing cannabis for personal use could go some way to undermining the burgeoning illicit cannabis factories controlled by organised crime.

But their report rejects any more radical move to legalisation, saying that allowing the legal sale of drugs such as heroin or cocaine could cause more damage than the existing drugs trade.

Abusive drug use should be a medical matter not a criminal one. The appropriate treatment options to provide people the change to regain their lives is what is needed; we don’t need to throw them in jail. Use the money saved from wasting people’s lives in jail and all the costs associated with that to help provide better drug abuse treatment options.

Related: The Rise and Fall of America’s First Prison for Drug AddictsStudy: Drug Treatment Success Rates in EnglandRussell Brand’s Testimony on Dealing with Drug AddictionPrinciples of Effective Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation

Drug Treatment Funding Can More Than Pay For Itself With Reduced Crime Costs

Some interesting details and data from Texas government web site.

Drug users constitute a large and growing proportion of the criminal justice population. Drug users not only commit a substantial amount of crime, but as the frequency of drug use increases, the frequency of crime increases and the severity of crimes committed also increases.

Drug use in the general population appears to have declined over the past decade, yet the number of drug-involved offenders is increasing. The number of convictions for drug violations in Texas has increased from 8,103 in 1980 to 23,126 in 1988, a 185 percent increase in less than ten years.

Estimates of lifetime drug users among the nation’s incarcerated population range from 80 to 87 percent.

The American Correctional Association notes that more than 95 percent of drug and alcohol offenders will be discharged from prison, most without receiving any treatment. Because of the high association between drug abuse and recidivism, it is in the public interest to place offenders in the kinds of treatment programs that have been found effective. A noticeable reduction in drug use and criminality can occur with an alliance between the criminal justice system and drug abuse treatment.

Public expenditures for drug abuse treatment are wise and prudent investments. Treatment works to reduce crime, drug abuse, and recidivism. Sustained reductions in recidivism can be achieved up to six years after treatment. With appropriate drug abuse treatment more than 75 percent of offenders with chronic substance abuse histories can reenter the community and lead socially acceptable life styles.

For every dollar spent for drug treatment, $11.54 is saved in social costs, including law enforcement costs, losses to victims, and government funds for health care.

Research has shown that funds invested in drug treatment reduces future criminal justice costs for treated offenders. Every dollar spent on residential drug treatment in probation saves $2.10 in future criminal justice costs. Every dollar spent on outpatient drug treatment in probation saves $4.28 in future criminal justice costs.

This is an old report, from 1997 but the basic model doesn’t change. A large amount of criminal activity is driven by drug addiction. To reduce crime in society drug addiction needs to be reduced. While success rates of drug addiction treatment centers are far from perfect the results more than pay for the cost – just in reduced crime costs (without even considering the better lives these people lead and the benefits to their children and loved ones).

Related: The Rise and Fall of America’s First Prison for Drug AddictsResults of 4 Year Study of Women in Drug TreatmentAlcohol is a Major Cause of Drug Rehab AdmissionsHow Effective is Drug Addiction Treatment?

Russell Brand’s Testimony on Dealing with Drug Addiction

Celebrity Russell Brand makes very intelligent comments to a UK government inquiry on how to deal with drug addiction problems. He was an addict and has been drug free now for years.

His main point seems to be that we need to take a pragmatic approach to what is a primarily a health problem not a criminal problem. Abstinence (all all drugs – including legal ones such as alcohol) based recovery is what he has succeeded with and he believes in. “I think what we need is love and compassion… because it deals with the problem and reducing crime”

Russell’s book, My Booky Wook, discusses this life including his drug use and recovery.

Related: Eminem’s ‘Relapse’ Explores His Drug Addition and RehabilitationPrinciples of Effective Drug Treatment and RehabilitationHow Effective is Drug Addiction Treatment?

Recovery High Schools

In 1989 the first recovery high schools in the USA began. The Ecole Novelle (now known as Sobriety High) and Peers Enjoying A Sober Education (PEASE Academy) were both started in started in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area, and are still operating today. Today, there are approximately 30 recovery high schools around the USA.

Sobriety High School.

Sober High (on PEASE)

Since 1989, educators have used the basement and Sunday school classrooms at University Lutheran Church of Hope on 13th Avenue SE. as a haven, and one of 15 recovery schools in Minnesota, with names such as Sobriety High or Solace Academy.

Heidi Judge, the school’s full-time chemical dependency counselor, has attended funerals of students killed by overdoses. She left behind the 30- and 90-day stints of treatment centers for the chance to work with students long-term.

PEASE takes an almost zero tolerance stance on drug and alcohol use, unless students come forward and confess their relapse. Last year, 80 percent of the students who walked through the door stayed clean.

“We can empathize, but we try not to enable,” Durchslag said.

“You don’t put your arm around the kid and say ‘Oh, poor little addict.’ If you choose to use, you choose to leave the school.”

Related: Association of Recovery SchoolsNew Jerusalem NowWhy Can’t Drug Addicts Quit on Their Own?Improving Addiction Treatment with The University of Wisconsin – Madison

Drug and Alcohol Abuse and Rehab Centres in Australia

There are many of reasons why people resort to abusing substances such as drugs or alcohol. People from different levels of society and from different age brackets fall into drug or alcohol addiction. Many use it for socialization or enjoyment but others tend to abuse it leading to addiction. Drug and alcohol rehabilitation is so easy to plan about but it is in fact so difficult to start with and to be able to sustain it. This is great challenge for addicts, and why avoiding the problem in the first place is far more preferable. But if you find yourself, or a loved one, addicted there is hope.

Substance abuse/addiction is considered as a disease and should be treated by a health care provider with specialization on this area in order to arrive at a proper treatment protocol for that particular stage that client maybe in. For whatever the reason and at whatever kind of lifestyle the abuser may have, the question is, “Is help readily available and accessible for them?”

The good news is that help is just around the corner. Once someone makes the decision they need to make a change, in order to put their life back on track the next step is choosing the right option for them from the available drug and alcohol detox centers.

Here are some Rehab Centres in Australia:
The Sanctuary Byron Bay
Location: Byron Bay 2481, Lismore
Specialization: Offers inspiration, advice and support for those who want to overcome addiction.

Banyan House
Location: Berrimah, NT 0828
Specialization: treatment for people recovering from alcohol and drug addictions and any co-occurring mental health disorders

Location: Adelaide, Melbourne
Specialization: Residential programs with intensive assistance in addiction recovery and life skill watching with a Christian Philosophy.

Narcotics Anonymous of Victoria
Location: Victoria, Australia
Specialization: fellowship of recovering drug addicts

Related: Top 10 Luxury Rehab CentersBetty Ford Center

Reducing Harm Due to Drug Use Should be the Aim – Not War

Toronto formally endorses harm reduction on drug use

Dr. Wood said Toronto’s commitment is an important symbolic step that solidifies Toronto’s commitment to fighting drug addiction in more nuanced ways than a “war-on-drugs” stance. It’s one he hopes will create more dialogue about changing Canada’s strategy on a national level.

An alternative to the war on drugs

the punitive enforcement of drug policy becoming largely immune from meaningful scrutiny.14 A curiously self justifying logic now prevails in which the harms of prohibition—such as drug related organised crime and deaths from contaminated heroin—are conflated with the harms of drug use. These policy related harms then bolster the apparent menace of drugs and justify the continuation, or intensification, of prohibition. This has helped create a high level policy environment that routinely ignores or actively suppresses critical scientific engagement and is uniquely divorced from most public health and social policy norms, such as evaluation of interventions using established indicators of health and wellbeing.

‘War on drugs’ behind endless misery

From a scientific perspective, we must accept that law enforcement will never meaningfully reduce the flow of drugs. Economists know that the drug seizures we see over and over again as part of police photo ops have the perverse effect of making it that much more profitable for someone else to sell drugs. The laws of supply and demand have simply overwhelmed police efforts. With young people reporting that obtaining illicit drugs is easier than getting alcohol or tobacco, the situation could not get much worse.
Strong scientific evidence points to the effectiveness of alternative regulatory models established in Portugal, the Netherlands and Switzerland to counter the disastrous consequences of illicit drug use and drug policies.

The Cato Institute, a respected U.S. think tank, has released a report on alternative drug policies. Several years ago, Portugal parted ways with the U.S. and decriminalized all drugs so that resources could focus on prevention and treatment of drug use. The report shows Portugal’s policies have dramatically reduced HIV rates as drug addiction has been viewed as a health, rather than criminal justice, problem. In addition, Portugal now has the lowest rates of marijuana use in the European Union, with experts suggesting that the health focus has taken some of the glamour out of illegal drugs.