Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Drug Treatment Expenditures

Although the article contains too few details to give any real insight, London's Guardian shares a report suggesting that a huge investment in drug treatment produced little in the way of results:
Despite a £131m boost in funding for the National Treatment Agency last year, the numbers emerging from treatment free of addiction has barely changed from 5,759 three years ago to 5,829 last year.

This amounts to an increase of only 70 more people, a hefty price tag of £1.85m for each addict to get clean.
The response is that "successful treatment takes from five and seven years" and thus that critics are expecting results too quickly, but also,
Every £1 spent on drug treatment saves £9.50 to the rest of society.
That sounds like a convenient, made-up figure. Why don't we invest the entire GDP in drug treatment, for an easy 950% return each year?

I would venture that the following factors are relevant to the slow start, despite a huge investment:
  • The broadened availability of treatment means that it is now being offered to (or required for) a much larger population of individuals who are not ready to be sober;
  • The broader reach of drug treatment is likely also to bring treatment services to dual diagnosis (or triple diagnosis) patients - those with concurrent physical and/or mental illness which complicates drug treatment - but without offering adequate, coordinated treatment for those other illnesses;
  • Increased funding does not mean that there will be immediate availability of trained, qualified drug counselors necessary to staff new and expanded programs, or that newly created or funded treatment programs will be quality programs;
  • Increased funding does not necessarily mean that the best treatment modalities are being identified and followed.
A lot more study is needed, along with certification of treatment programs. (And not just in the U.K.)

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