The Truth about the War on Drugs (and Mental Health)
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The Truth about the War on Drugs (and Mental Health)



If the alcoholics and addicts I know are any indication, it seems people who struggle with a drinking and drugging problem have at some point in their lives sought out a form of mental health support prior to or in conjunction with recognizing and treating their addiction. Which is why it always shocks me to read about mental health budget cuts or to find out what miniscule amount of mental health care my insurance will actually cover. Considering we are a country fighting the war on drugs, it might behoove us to recognize that there is a very real relationship between mental health and drug abuse. How about this for a concept? We might be able do as much good treating the source as we are arresting the suppliers.

Faulty Data

According to USA Today, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) has released some statistics on heroin use reporting that as of 2010, approximately 60,000 Americans used heroin daily (or almost daily). Yet according to the article, NSDUH isn’t the best vehicle to gather this kind of information because they’re mostly effective in gathering stats about tobacco, alcohol and marijuana. Turns out addicts aren’t as forthcoming about their using habits in government surveys like the NSDUH. It’s surveys like the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program [ADAM] that generates reports from people who are caught up in the criminal justice system and therefore provide more accurate results. The way ADAM does it? By tallying the use of crack, heroin and meth and then cross-referencing that with urinalysis reports. Make that the way they did do it until 2013, when it was shut down.

Forbes reported that a new study, commissioned by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, shows that chronic heroin user numbers are actually up into the 1.5 millions. The difference being that this newer report attempted to include users that were missed by the NSDUH because they weren’t being honest or weren’t part of the survey. According to this article, drug policy analysts at the RAND Corporation, a non-profit research and analysis company used by the government, mostly rely on the data collected from ADAM to calculate heavy drug use.

Why These Surveys Matter

Now before you start thinking that these are just some FYI studies for someone’s records, you should know that surveys like ADAM help determine where to put rehabilitation funding, whether the funding efforts are working or not and how much drug money is being funneled back to criminal organizations. Yeah, I’d say that is kind of really important.

It’s especially tragic to hear about that when news is also emerging that 90 percent of beds at state psychiatric hospitals have been eliminated since the Community Mental Health Act (CHMA) (federal funding for hundreds of mental health clinics) was passed in 1963. Since then, government funding for these facilities has been cut and cut and then cut some more, with the hope that state funding would step up and fill in the gaps. No such luck. So most of the trained professionals in the field of mental health have been forced into other areas of social work (like private practice) and we all know there is nothing affordable about that.

It seems like there’s a true lack of interest from our government in really knowing how bad our country’s drug problem is. That, combined with the lack of significance placed on mental health, seems counteractive and, ironically perhaps, really freaking depressing.

Photo courtesy of DrugFree

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About Author

Danielle Stewart is a Los Angeles-based writer and recovering comedian. She has written for Showtime, E!, and MTV, as well as print publications such as Us Weekly and Life & Style Magazine. She returned to school and is currently working her way towards a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves coffee, Law & Order SVU, and her emotional support dog, Benson.