Monday, April 24, 2017

The War on Drugs

A few weeks ago NPR had a program on Lisbon and its decision to treat, rather than punish, drug addicts. So far, it's worked out well. What if we tried it here?

That's what Austin Frakt asks? He quotes from some studies that seem to be accurate: For one, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently estimated that prescription opioid abuse, dependence and overdoses cost the public sector $23 billion a year, with a third of that attributable to crime. An additional $55 billion per year reflects private-sector costs attributable to productivity losses and health care expenses. About 80,000 Americans are incarcerated for opioid-related crimes alone. The total annual economic burden of all substance use disorders — not just those involving opioids — is in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Some other findings:
If we treated 10%1 more users,  the robbery and larceny theft rates would decrease by about 3 percent and the aggravated assault rate by 4 to 9 percent.
For a dollar spent on treatment, up to three are saved in crime reduction.
For every 100 patients on methadone per year, there were 12 fewer robberies, 57 fewer break-and-enters and 56 fewer auto thefts. 
The provision of heroin by doctors to patients addicted to it — permitted in Canada and some other countries — reduces crime.
The opening of an additional treatment facility in a county is associated with lower drug-related mortality in that county, as well as lower crime. The effect of crime reduction alone would save an estimated $4.2 million per facility per year, or almost four times its cost.

New England states could save $1.3 billion by expanding treatment of opioid-dependent persons by 25 percent.

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