Creating Conditions That Reduce the Likelihood That Teenagers Will Abuse Drugs

Treating people with drug and alcohol addition is very difficult. Preventing many of them from becoming addicted in the first place is a good way to avoid many of the problems caused by drug and alcohol addition.

Iceland knows how to stop teen substance abuse but the rest of the world isn’t listening

In Iceland, teenage smoking, drinking and drug use have been radically cut in the past 20 years.

“We didn’t say to them, you’re coming in for treatment. We said, we’ll teach you anything you want to learn: music, dance, hip hop, art, martial arts.” The idea was that these different classes could provide a variety of alterations in the kids’ brain chemistry, and give them what they needed to cope better with life: some might crave an experience that could help reduce anxiety, others may be after a rush.

At the same time, the recruits got life-skills training, which focused on improving their thoughts about themselves and their lives, and the way they interacted with other people. “The main principle was that drug education doesn’t work because nobody pays attention to it. What is needed are the life skills to act on that information,” Milkman says. Kids were told it was a three-month programme. Some stayed five years.

A few factors emerged as strongly protective: participation in organised activities – especially sport – three or four times a week, total time spent with parents during the week, feeling cared about at school, and not being outdoors in the late evenings.

Elsewhere, cities that have joined Youth in Europe are reporting other benefits. In Bucharest, for example, the rate of teen suicides is dropping alongside use of drink and drugs. In Kaunas, the number of children committing crimes dropped by a third between 2014 and 2015.

The solutions Iceland experimented with can’t be copied directly for elsewhere, cultures are different. But many of the concepts and practices can be adopted elsewhere. The idea of investing in helping teenagers live happy, engaged lives instead of locking up teenagers acting out is something we would all benefit from.

Related: The Causes of Drug Addiction are ComplexThe War on Drugs has been a Huge Failure with Massive Unintended ConsequencesFunding Drug Addiction Treatment Would Cost 1/7 the Cost of the Current Criminal System Focused PolicyAlmost everything we think we know about addiction is wrong

Growing Call by Leaders Worldwide to End the War on Drugs

Letter to UN signed by over 1,000 worldwide leaders

The drug control regime that emerged during the last century has proven disastrous for global health, security and human rights. Focused overwhelmingly on criminalization and punishment, it created a vast illicit market that has enriched criminal organizations, corrupted governments, triggered explosive violence, distorted economic markets and undermined basic moral values.

Humankind cannot afford a 21 st century drug policy as ineffective and counter-productive as the last century’s. A new global response to drugs is needed, grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.

The role of criminalization and criminal justice must be limited to the extent truly required to protect health and safety. Leadership must come from those who recognize that psychoactive drug use is first and foremost a matter of health. Drug control efforts must never do more harm than good, or cause more harm than drug misuse itself.

We need to have society focus on helping people recover from drug addiction. The war on the poor and abused in society by our legal system just makes things worse. We need to improve.

Over 1,000 Leaders Worldwide Call for End to “Disastrous” Drug War, Ahead of UN Special Session

The unprecedented list of signatories includes a range of people from Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders to businessmen Warren Buffett, George Soros, Richard Branson, Barry Diller, actors Michael Douglas and Woody Harrelson, Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, singers John Legend and Mary J. Blige, activists Reverend Jesse Jackson, Gloria Steinem and Michelle Alexander, as well as distinguished legislators, cabinet ministers, and former UN officials.

There is a great deal of human suffering caused by drug addiction and abuse (including alcohol and the abuse of prescription drugs). We need to create solutions to help people avoid ruining their lives and the lives of those they love. Our police attacking those people and wagging war on them is not something society should tolerate.

Related: Funding Drug Addiction Treatment Would Cost 1/7 the Cost of the Current Criminal System Focused PolicyDrug Treatment Funding Can More Than Pay For Itself With Reduced Crime CostsThe Causes of Drug Addiction are ComplexThe War on Drugs has been a Huge Failure with Massive Unintended Consequences

The War on Drugs has been a Huge Failure with Massive Unintended Consequences

This webcast takes a look at our experience with the so-called “war on drugs.” The war on drugs has been a huge failure with massive unintended consequences. Policy needs to take into account results. We have some minor attempts to do this but overall the war on drugs has led to increasing damage as we increase the war without considering the results.

Related: Funding Drug Addiction Treatment Would Cost 1/7 the Cost of the Current Criminal System Focused PolicyReducing Harm Due to Drug Use Should be the Aim, Not WarDrug Treatment Funding Can More Than Pay For Itself With Reduced Crime Costs

Almost everything we think we know about addiction is wrong

Almost everything we think we know about addiction is wrong.

Addiction is just one symptom of the crisis of disconnection that is happening all around us.

The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.

In the video they talk about one of the things we posted about earlier (in The Causes of Drug Addiction are Complex): the conditions of addiction expedients that form the basis of our understanding are questionable.

The claim made in the video is that psychology is much more the cause of addiction than chemistry. There certainly is plenty of evidence suggesting psychology is very important.

The video makes the claim it is largely about a “crisis of disconnection.” That if we don’t make strong interpersonal connections we will seek solace in the form of something that distracts us (drugs or something else).

These ideas are explored further in Johann Hari’s book about drugs and addiction: Chasing the Scream.

Related: Drug Addictions Often Disappear Over Time, even without treatmentMethods to Treat AddictionFunding Drug Addiction Treatment Would Cost 1/7 the Cost of the Current Criminal System Focused PolicyCombination Strategy to Treat Alcohol Dependence

Funding Drug Addiction Treatment Would Cost 1/7 the Cost of the Current Criminal System Focused Policy

Treatment: Effective (But Unpopular) Weapon Against Drugs

Paying for treatment of hard-core drug users is a bone in the throat of middle class taxpayers–and small wonder. Drug abusers are not an appealing group, and the programs themselves largely fail to wean their clients off drugs for good. Nonetheless, say RAND researchers, treatment programs are a sound investment of public funds because they effectively cut consumption–and consumption is what drives the drug trade.

RAND corporation aims to provide policy guidance, driven by data and research, to policy makers. They differ from many others in that they pay more attention to what works than to the interest groups often telling politicians what to do. RAND is willing to take stands that others are not and often propose policies that conflict with the accepted positions held to for decades by interest groups.

When data supports a policy RAND will encourage the use of that policy even if it seems odd – like paying for drug treatment for those breaking the law. Without treatment RAND data shows the government will spend 7 times as much money. But politicians have been resisting spending 1/7 as much money because they fear voters can’t understand that doing so is wise. This is from a 1995 report by RAND:

Treatment is seven times more cost-effective in reducing cocaine consumption than the best supply-control program and could cut consumption by a third if it were extended to all heavy users, according to the study. Such a strategy could also substantially reduce the number of users and the costs they inflict on society through crime and lost productivity.

And RAND doesn’t even factor in the costs of wasted lives, pain and suffering that are aided by good addition treatment help. Some propose we aid drug users with treatment programs because human suffering is something we should reduce when we can. RAND proposes we do so based solely on the hard cash benefits government will gain. It is hard to argue with a program that reduces costs by 86% (6/7).

While we may have made a little progress has been made in getting more funding since 1995, if we have it is a tiny portion of what would be a wise investment. The failure to use addiction treatment progress continues to add to the budget deficits our governments face and the suffering of drug abusers in our society.

Related: Drug Treatment Funding Can More Than Pay For Itself With Reduced Crime CostsImproving Addiction Treatment with The University of Wisconsin MadisonWhat Should Society Do About Drug Addicts That Are Not Seeking Treatment?

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