Apr 4

cpoas

In an effort to provide a comprehensive picture of smoking, drinking, and substance abuse–including long-term trends, effects on society, media and cultural influences, approaches to and effectiveness of treatment, and future implications–the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has published a report that incorporates more than three decades’ worth of data from several hundred public and private sources.

The report, “Substance Abuse: The Nation’s Number One Health Problem,” substantiates its title by documenting that tobacco, alcohol, and drug use cause more illnesses, deaths, and disabilities than any other preventable health problem. Of the more than two million deaths in the United States each year, one in four is attributable to tobacco, alcohol, or illicit substances.

The report looks at substance abuse from several different perspectives, including the following:

Early use. More than 40 percent of those who started drinking at age 14 or younger developed alcohol dependence, compared with 10 percent of those who began drinking at age 20 or older.

Media depictions. Alcohol appeared in 93 percent and tobacco in 89 percent of the 200 most popular movie rentals in 1996 and 1997.

Crime. At least half of all adults arrested for major crimes–including theft and assault–tested positive for drugs at the time of their arrest.

Treatment. Fewer than one-fourth of those in need receive treatment, although studies show that treatment is successful in up to 70 percent of alcohol patients and 80 percent of opiate users (with success defined as a 50 percent reduction in substance use after six months). Of the U.S. government’s drug control budget, three in five dollars are spent on criminal justice and interdiction, but fewer than one in five on treatment.

Education. People with …