Drug Abuse

V. Key Issues: Population Health >> E. Health Promotion >> Drug Abuse (last updated 12.8.16)


  • Illicit drug abuse in the U.S. adds $11 billion to health costs and imposes an additional $182 billion in non-health costs related to automobile accidents, crime, lost work productivity etc. (NIDA 2012).

War on Drugs

  • Pew Charitable Trusts | Public Safety Performance Project (August 2015).  Federal Drug Sentencing Laws Bring High Cost, Low Return (8.27.15). More than 95,000 federal prisoners are serving time for drug-related offenses—up from fewer than 5,000 in 1980. Despite substantial expenditures on longer prison terms for drug offenders, taxpayers have not realized a strong public safety return. The self-reported use of illegal drugs has increased over the long term as drug prices have fallen and purity has risen.4 Federal sentencing laws that were designed with serious traffickers in mind have resulted in lengthy imprisonment of offenders who played relatively minor roles. These laws also have failed to reduce recidivism. Nearly a third of the drug offenders who leave federal prison and are placed on community supervision commit new crimes or violate the conditions of their release—a rate that has not changed substantially in decades.
  • Stephen R. KandallOur inhumane and costly 100-year war on drugs. News and Observer. March 24, 2013. The federal “war on drugs” started in 1914 with the passage of the Harrison Anti-Narcotic Act and two 1919 Supreme Court decisions: U.S. v. Doremus, which held the Harrison Act constitutional, and Webb et al v. U.S., which made it illegal for physicians and pharmacists to dispense narcotics solely for addiction maintenance. Despite two subsequent court decisions – U.S. v. Linder in 1925 and Robinson v. California in 1962 – which attempted to modulate this “zero tolerance” campaign, America remained committed to harsh, punitive measures against a vulnerable population of addicts.

    Since 1971, the “war on drugs” has cost America an estimated $1 trillion and led to 45 million drug arrests, most for nonviolent offenses. In 2007 alone, illegal drug use cost the United States an estimated $193 billion in productivity losses, anti-crime measures and health expenditures.

  • David Sheff. Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy. 374 pp. An Eamon Dolan Book/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $25. NYT Book Review: Sheff, a journalist, writes that America’s “stigmatization of drug users” has backfired, hindering progress in curbing addiction. The war on drugs, he says bluntly, “has failed.” After 40 years and an “unconscionable” expense that he estimates at a trillion dollars, there are 20 million addicts in America (including alcoholics), and “more drugs, more kinds of drugs, and more toxic drugs used at younger ages.”



Medical Marijuana

As of 11.9.15 medical marijuana had been allowed in 23 states; however,  some groups remain opposed to it, including the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the American Medical Association

Needle Exchange Programs

Opiod Addiction

Lembke, AnnaDrug Dealer, MD. Johns Hopkins, 172 pages, $19.95. One of the biggest culprits in the rise of opioid abuse may be a structural one: Facing draconian time pressures, doctors who suspect that a patient is misusing painkillers rarely get to talk with him about the troubles at the root of his drug problem. One reason is that payment for services is typically tied to the number of patients a clinician sees per day. Abbreviated visits mean shortcuts, like a quick refill that may not be warranted while the need for addiction treatment is overlooked.




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