Julie Miller's Mental Health Blog

“C” is for Chemical Dependence

Posted on: February 28, 2010

Chemical dependence is one of this country’s most expensive and destructive public health issues.  Billions of dollars are spent each year on prisons, the justice system, law enforcement, and treatment.  Treatment, of course, really being the area with the smallest amount of funding.  The loss to society of productive adults and teens and the costs to future generations because of the impact of chemical dependence on families is also enormous.  But this is all just from a public health perspective.  The true cost paid by individuals and families is immeasurable.

From a family perspective, chemical dependence can destroys the present and future.  Children raised in families with chemical dependence suffer PTSD at the same rates as combat veterans.  Children raised in these families are at extremely high risk for development of chemical dependence themselves, along with higher rates of just about any mental health issue, including depression, anxiety, personality disorders, eating disorders, pain disorders… you name it.

The “war on drugs” is really a war on Americans.  How’s that war working out, you might ask?  Chemical dependence rates continue to increase.  Illegal drug trafficking appears to increase every year across the Arizona-Mexico border, as evidenced by increased drug seizures.  Do we really think we’re actually seizing more because we’re winning the war on drugs?  Nah.  We’re seizing more because they’re sending more.  Drug seizure is considered a business cost by drug lords and drug cartels.

Why do you think Mexico losing the war against drug cartels?  So there are lots of opinions, I’m sure, but it seems fairly clear to me that export of illegal drugs to the US is so lucrative that the risk of prosecution for killing public officials, civilians, journalists, law enforcement, and the risk of being killed oneself, is far outweighed by the dough earned through the drug trade.  The fact that the market for illegal drugs in the US is enormous makes dealing drugs a lucrative career choice in Mexico. I won’t even get into the issue of guns flowing from the US to Mexico, which arms the drug cartels.

Given this complicated issue with the politics surrounding chemical dependence, it seems increased funding for chemical dependence treatment would be a big part of the solution.  Treatment is designed, inherently, to reduce the demand for drugs (illegal and legal).

Treatment for chemical dependence is available in most communities to some degree.  Often rural areas do not have treatment readily available, and these areas often have higher rates of chemical dependence than urban areas.  Chemical dependence treatment usually falls under mental health treatment and therefore is subject to lack of funding by states. (Arizona is among the rock bottom states when it comes to funding for mental health services.)

What would it be like if even some of the billions of dollars spent on the “War on Drugs” went for treatment of addicts, thereby reducing the demand for drugs in the US?  Potentially, it could be revolutionary to this country, especially for future generations.  Treatment for chemical dependence would not only reduce demand, it would also increase productivity, improve families, reduce rates of mental illness, and give future generations a real opportunity to succeed and benefit directly from the billions of dollars spent.

Treatment reduces suffering.  Treatment improves lives.  Treatment gives families a chance to raise healthy, educated, productive children.

Who’s not for treatment? Unfortunately, many man people in the US are not for treatment, as evidenced by the lack of public and political will to provide the dough to pay for it.


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