Our good blogfriend, Scibling and scientist-artist BioE! has a post up discussing the intersection of drug abuse health care, drug abuse science, research funding and the political process. I recommend you start with:
But there's a huge double standard in the media, and in society in general, when it comes to drug abuse treatment...Maybe it's because these other addicts are meth addicts, or potheads, or heroin addicts - probably not people you relate to or approve of. That makes it pretty easy for the media to take cheap shots at crack, etc. addicts, and question whether we should waste money trying to help them...But here's an even easier target than pot smokers: drug-using Thai transgendered prostitutes!
That last is not a joke.
I know a lot of you are scientists, biologists, doctors, teachers, etc. I hope that you believe drug abuse treatment is important - even for people that aren't much like you. So I'd like to ask that if this kind of thing is as frustrating to you as it is to me, say something about it. That's why I'm writing this post, even though I fully expect to get a lot of angry comments. . . because I haven't seen many science blog posts out there on this - even though it touches on peer review, parity, and so many other issues important to the scientific/medical community...I don't see how the heck we are going to get better drug abuse treatments unless we let doctors and scientists actually study drug abuse and test treatments out in the real world. Personally, I happen to think research works - not perfectly, but it works. What do you think?
I don't know if you remember the Coalition to Protect Research or not but they've sent out an alert about what appears to be a growing strategy to bash drug-abuse science. They've issued the following talking points. I'm going to look through them and see what I might need to address in future blog posts. I'm sure my Readers will likewise have an opinion or two on the topic. [Disc: As you know, it is near certain that I have in the past held, currently hold, and/or am actively seeking to hold funding from NIDA and/or NIAAA to support my research on topics of substance abuse. I am by no means a neutral party and I encourage you, as always, to consider my remarks in this light.]
Substance use and abuse is costly to Americans, tearing at the fabric of our society and taking a huge financial toll on our resources. Beyond the unacceptably high rates of morbidity and mortality, substance use and abuse is often implicated in family disintegration, loss of employment, failure in school, domestic violence, child abuse, and other crimes. Placing dollar figures on the problem, smoking, alcohol and illegal drug use exact an exorbitant economic cost on our Nation, estimated at over $600 billion annually.
Over the past three decades, NIDA-supported research has revolutionized our understanding of addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disease - knowledge that is helping to correctly situate addiction as a serious public health issue that demands strategic solutions. By supporting research that reveals how drugs affect the brain and behavior and how multiple factors influence drug abuse and its consequences, NIDA is advancing effective strategies to prevent people from ever using drugs and to treat them when they cannot stop.
Just in the past five years, research supported by NIAAA has reframed the understanding of alcohol dependence demonstrating that: 1) it is a developmental disorder that often has its roots in childhood and adolescence; 2) the highest prevalence of alcohol dependence in the U.S. general population occurs in 18-24 year olds; and 3) a large percentage of individuals with alcohol dependence are functional, and some are even leaders in society, and therefore go largely unnoticed by the healthcare system. These findings underscore NIAAA's opportunity to fund research that will facilitate better prediction of individuals at risk for future dependence by understanding the complex interplay between genetic, environmental, and developmental factors and to preempt future problems by focusing research on prevention efforts on children and adolescents as well as screening and guidance to people of all ages about how drinking patterns, especially binge drinking, relate to risks for adverse health outcomes.
The recent boost in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will speed the pace of research, provide jobs, and advance the science needed to address this devastating disease. Research spanning genetic and other risk factors to neighborhood specific prevention approaches to novel medications to treat addiction to translating effective strategies to community settings, ARRA funding will help move us toward a future when substance abuse is viewed and treated in a manner similar to other medical conditions, easing the tremendous suffering that addiction brings to individuals, communities, and our society as a whole.
· Drug abuse and addiction are a major burden to society.
· Of all illicit drugs represented in rehab centers around the country, marijuana is most common, representing 17 percent of the people in rehab.
· More than 18 million people ages 18 and older suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence and only 7 percent of them receive any form of treatment.
· Estimates of the total overall costs of substance abuse in the United States -- including health- and crime-related costs as well as losses in productivity -- exceed half a trillion dollars annually.
· This includes approximately $181 billion for illicit drugs, $168 billion for tobacco, and $185 billion for alcohol.
· Staggering as these numbers are, there are series public health--and safety--implications, which include family disintegration, loss of employment, failure in school, domestic violence, child abuse, and other crimes.
· Addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences to the individual who is addicted and to those around them.
· Addiction is a disease that affects both brain and behavior. Research has identified many of the biological and environmental factors and is beginning to search for the genetic variations that contribute to the development and progression of the disease. Scientists use this knowledge to develop effective prevention and treatment approaches that reduce the toll drug abuse takes on individuals, families, and communities.
· Increased understanding of the basics of addiction will empower people to make informed choices in their own lives, adopt science-based policies and programs that reduce drug abuse and addiction in their communities, and support scientific research that improves the Nation's well-being.
· According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. Even more importantly from a public health perspective, alcohol misuse negatively affects the quality of life for millions of Americans. The World Health Organization ranks alcohol as one of the top ten causes of Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) in the United States.
· A complex disorder, risk for alcohol dependence is a consequence of the interplay of multiple genes, multiple environmental factors, and the interaction of these genes and environmental factors.
· The consequences of alcohol misuse can affect both drinkers and those around them at all stages of life, from damage due to alcohol exposure of the developing embryo, to injuries, to tissue and organ damage resulting from chronic, heavy alcohol use.
· Alcohol health services research, a multidisciplinary field of applied research, seeks to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and equity of services designed to reduce the public health burden of alcohol use disorders across the lifespan. It does this by examining how social factors, financing systems, service environments, organizational structures and processes, health technologies, and personal beliefs and behaviors affect access to and utilization of healthcare, the quality and cost of healthcare, and in the end our health and well-being. Ultimately the goal is to identify ways to organize, manage, finance, and deliver high-quality care consistent with developmental needs of patients and their families.
Yep, lots of fodder for discussion here. Lots. I'm hoping to find some discussion starters that will be of interest to you, Dear Reader, in the coming months.