Newsbrief: Why Don't People Seek Treatment? 12/26/03

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Drug and alcohol abusers are not seeking treatment because of the inability to stop using drugs, the cost of treatment, and the associated stigma, the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Weekly reported late last month, citing a study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). According to that study, some 23 million people meet diagnostic criteria for drug or alcohol dependence, but are not getting treatment.

But a closer look at the study shows that the vast majority of people diagnosed as needing treatment under SAMSHA criteria disagreed with that diagnosis. The study found 7.7 million people it said needed treatment for drug abuse or dependence, but only 6% of those people thought they needed it. The study found 17 million people it said were in need of alcohol treatment, but only 4.5% of those agreed. It was that small percentage who formed the basis for the study's conclusions.

The problem lies with SAMHSA's reliance on the American Psychological Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), which includes not only such non-controversial symptoms as withdrawal and the inability to stop using, but also problems with the law -- a function not of the properties of any particular drug, but of that drug's prohibited status. Thus, for example, people who continue to smoke marijuana after having been arrested or otherwise hassled for it need treatment, or so the argument goes.

According to SAMHSA, last year about 18% (1.4 million) of those it identified as needing drug treatment received it. That number is three times as high as the number of drug users who thought they needed treatment. Some drug users, of course, are in denial about the seriousness of their substance abuse problems. But in other cases, it may be some policymakers, analysts, judges and treatment providers who are in denial about the lack of need or the overabundance of coerced drug treatment commitments.

Visit to read "Reasons for Not Receiving Substance Abuse Treatment" online.

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Issue #317, 12/26/03 Message from the Executive Director: Another Year at DRCNet and in Drug Policy Reform | Canadian Supreme Court Upholds Marijuana Law -- Cannabis Battle Heads Back to Parliament | The New Jersey Weedman is Back! Forchion Announces House Bid Before Arrest at Liberty Bell Pot-Smoking Religious Demo | Newsbrief: The Complete List of President Bush's Drug War Prisoner Pardons | Newsbrief: Return of the Undead, Part I -- "B-1 Bob" Dornan to Challenge Rohrabacher in House Race, Attacks Medical Marijuana | Newsbrief: Return of the Undead, Part II -- Arch-Drug Warrior McCollum Seeks Florida GOP Senate Nod | Newsbrief: Prohibition-Terror Link? | Newsbrief: Cable Giant Censors Medical Marijuana Issue Ads in New Hampshire | Newsbrief: Todd McCormick Released from Federal Prison | Newsbrief: Why Don't People Seek Treatment? | Popular Television News and Drama Programs to Discuss Mandatory Minimum Sentencing in January | BUSTED: New and Improved Video Offer from DRCNet | DRCNet Temporarily Suspending Our Web-Based Write-to-Congress Service Due to Funding Shortfalls -- Your Help Can Bring It Back -- Keep Contacting Congress in the Meantime | Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions | The Reformer's Calendar

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