A study released this week (3/16) conclusively shows that addiction treatment is as effective in treating substance abuse as established treatments for asthma, diabetes and hypertension are in controlling those disorders. The study also found that treatment was an effective anti-crime measure and was substantially less costly than putting addicted persons in prison.
The study was sponsored by Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy (PLNDP), a group comprised of 37 distinguished physicians including high ranking officials from the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations. Members include Louis Sullivan, M.D., Secretary of Health and Human Services under president Bush, Edward Brandt, M.D., Assistant Secretary of HHS under president Reagan, and David Kessler, M.D., former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration under President Clinton. The group also includes a former Surgeon General, a Nobel laureate, and the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association. The group's director is David Lewis, M.D., who is also the Director of the Center for Alcohol and Addictive Studies at Brown University.
Released concomitantly was a survey of American opinion on the subject of treatment and drug policy. That survey, which compiled and analyzed data from over 100 separate opinion polls taken between 1951 and 1997, found that Americans' perception of the effectiveness of treatment has actually fallen, and with it, the desire to see more spending in that area. In 1990, 65% of Americans felt that more money needed to be spent on treatment, while in 1996 only 53% felt that way.
David Lewis, M.D., director of Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy, told The Week Online, "First of all, the reception of the report by the panel was extremely positive, which was very important. The response thus far politically has also been excellent. Obviously, having the two reports come out together gave everyone the opportunity to see the discrepancy between our findings on the effectiveness of addiction treatment and the public's perception of that effectiveness. This juxtaposition highlights the fact that the public is addressing this issue on the basis of stereotypes, fear and myths, rather than on science and information. I am extremely pleased that the debate is becoming more public and more open and that we can finally begin to discuss and to address these issues rationally."
NOTE: On Wednesday, 3/18, ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel featured the Physician's Leadership group and their conclusions. Koppel, interviewing a U.S Representative and a Drug Court judge, pushed the envelope, asking several times that if we are really taking the position that addiction is a disease to be dealt with medically like any other, than what basis is there for putting these people in prison (in the absence of other offenses like violence or property crime), and isn't decriminalization of drugs the logical extension of this argument?
Please take a moment to visit the ABC News web site at <http://www.abcnews.com/onair/> and drop them a note (click on "email") congratulating them for a wonderful job, and asking that they continue to cover the Drug War with such honesty and intelligence. A transcript of the 3/18 show is available from that page, or directly at <http://www.abcnews.com/onair/nightline/html_files/transcrip ts/ntl0318.html>.
Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy has a web site at <http://center.butler.brown.edu/plndp/>. Physicians can to register through the site as PLNDP Associates, to endorse PLNDP's consensus statement and receive updates on the organization's activities and the issue.