by John F Bunker, ScD, MHS
In New Hampshire, 82% of adults personally know a relative, close friend or colleague who has had a problem with alcohol or other drugs. Chances are you know someone now suffering from addiction to alcohol and other drugs, in need of treatment, or in recovery.
It is a sad fact that one in every four children in the US is exposed to alcohol problems or dependence in the family. Dependence on alcohol and other drugs is a major public health and safety issue in New Hampshire, bringing significant health, social and economic costs to us all.
TREATMENT WORKS. Treatment for addiction is as effective as treatment for other chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
TREATMENT IS COST-EFFECTIVE. If left untreated, alcohol and other drug addiction costs the US approximately $276 billion in lost productivity, law enforcement, health care, justice, welfare, and other programs and services. For every dollar spent on treatment, three to seven dollars are saved in social, health and criminal justice costs.
Public policy has been inclined to punish people who have alcohol and other drug problems. However, recent research has revealed the complex biological, genetic, and persistent nature of addiction, and demonstrated the effectiveness of quality treatment services. According to a survey by the University of New Hampshire, the majority of New Hampshire adults share this view. Despite these public attitudes and current research, and unlike most other states, people in New Hampshire have limited access to effective treatment resources.
Would you know where to go to find treatment services in your community? Residential facilities, crisis detoxification centers, intensive outpatient services and outpatient services are “few and far between” according to a recent report by the NH Center for Public Policy Studies.
The evidence is clear: NEW HAMPSHIRE RESIDENTS NEED TREATMENT. At least fourteen alcohol and drug treatment programs have closed in the past ten years; the State spends less than half of the national average on alcohol and drug treatment services; and current alcohol and other drug needs exceed the existing capacity for treatment by 2-10 times. The 1999 National Household Survey of Drug Abuse estimates 43,000 New Hampshire residents over 12 years of age were dependent on alcohol or illicit drugs in the past year.
THIS MUST CHANGE. What can you do?
ADMIT that many of our citizens, families and communities are suffering from alcohol and other drug problems.
ACKNOWLEDGE that we are already paying a huge price for the personal, social, health and criminal justice consequences of alcohol, tobacco and other drug problems.
ACCEPT the scientific research that addiction to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs is a chronic, complex disease that can be effectively treated and managed.
OVERCOME our beliefs about the hopelessness of alcohol, tobacco and other drug problems that prolong barriers to attaining and sustaining recovery.
INVEST in and insure access to effective treatment programs for all New Hampshire men, women and children who currently suffer from alcohol, tobacco and other drug problems.
REDUCE the denial, discrimination, and stigma association with alcohol and other drug addiction.
EDUCATE yourself about the scope and harm of addiction-related problems in New Hampshire.
SUPPORT public policies to increase access to treatment in New Hampshire.
ADVOCATE for the development and implementation of a comprehensive treatment system in New Hampshire for individuals and families with alcohol, tobacco and other drug problems.
BELIEVE in, value, and support recovery.
If you are suffering or know someone who is suffering from untreated alcohol, tobacco and other drug problems, please ask for help. Do not give up hope — recovery is possible. For more information, contact: the NH Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Recovery 1-800-804-0909, the NH Helpline or 1-800-852-3388 or Friends of Recovery, New Hampshire or 603-647-4629. Hope CAN replace despair.
September marks the 14th annual observance of National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month (Recovery Month). The theme for 2003 is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Celebrating Health.” Please Join the Voices for Recovery and help New Hampshire citizens find their way to recovery — and join the millions of others in recovery who are leading full, rich, productive, and rewarding lives.
John F Bunker, ScD, MHS is President of New Futures. New Futures is a not-for-profit organization in New Hampshire working to reduce the harm caused by alcohol, tobacco and other drug problems. New Futures is focusing on two goals: reducing underage alcohol problems and increasing access to treatment through leadership and policy development, information dissemination and program innovation. For more information, please contact New Futures at 603-431-1770 or online at: www.new-futures.org