“No man is an island, entire of itself . . . Therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
Too many Americans are painfully aware of the tragic human cost of drug and alcohol addiction. Many others, however, are unaware of the savings that can be achieved through effective drug abuse prevention programs.
The costs of addiction to society come in the form of billions of dollars in health-care expenditures, enforcement of drug laws, lost productivity, and so on.
For example, one survey found that excessive alcohol use alone cost the U.S. approximately $223 billion for these expenses in 2006. Another survey in 2007 found that similar costs amounted to $193 billion.
Add in the additional less-visible impact of unpaid debts, missed payments and resulting late fees, and eviction or foreclosure of homes, and the figures begin to reach staggering proportions.
Return on investment
Conversely, however, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), an arm of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), cites a study funded by California which found that the $209 million the state spent on drug and alcohol abuse treatment in a one-year period resulted in an estimated $1.5 billion in savings for taxpayers.
That means that for every $1 spent on treatment, taxpayers saved $7 in costs associated with uncontrolled drug and alcohol abuse.
NIDA called the study, conducted by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center, the largest and most scientific cost-benefit analysis of drug abuse treatment ever undertaken.
“Most people don’t believe treatment works, and they’re wrong,” NIDA Director Dr. Alan I. Leshner said in comments to the news media about the study.
So the next time you hear someone wondering aloud why “my tax dollars” should be used for drug treatment, remind them of Donne’s observation. And point out that in the long run they’ll actually be saving quite a few of their tax dollars.