Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Addiction Treatment and Research

There's an interesting conversation going on at Scienceblogs about the politics and funding of addiction treatment and research. Interesting to me, at least, because they in some ways mirror conversations I've had with friends in the past.

It starts with a thoughtful post by Jessica Palmer at BioEphemera who discusses the double standards when it comes to smoking (and here I would probably add alcohol) versus treatment for other substance addiction.
That's why it upsets me that while research to help smokers quit is generally portrayed as necessary and important, increasingly, I'm seeing politicians complain that research to help other drug addicts quit is a waste of money.

Maybe it's because these other addicts are meth addicts, or potheads, or heroin addicts - probably not people you relate to or approve of. That makes it pretty easy for the media to take cheap shots at crack, etc. addicts, and question whether we should waste money trying to help them. [...] We should be leveraging scientific research every way we can to help these people - not throwing them away or taking shots at them because they're "bad," or because we can't relate to them. They're real people. They have families.
Part of the problem, as raised in the comments there, is that drug addiction is often viewed as a moral or personal failing. Worse, watch the video at the end of Jessica's post and notice how the Fox reporter describes a few "crazy" studies. There's some serious othering of the subjects going on. The fight against drug treatment and research is a fight based on race, socio-economic status, sexual preference and gender. It's as though we aren't supposed to care about 'latino pot smokers', 'low income women' or 'homosexual fathers.' (Yes, not all of those studies are drug related, but it demonstrates some of the targets of anti-funding campaigns)

On the subject of the moral failing argument, Janet Stemwedel at Adventures in Ethics and Science makes the case for funding research that people don't approve of.
The implication of the view that taking drugs is a moral failing is that if you make this wrong choice, you fully deserve everything that follows from this choice -- and you ought not receive any assistance in undoing the mess that your wrong choice got you into. [...] Science can ask all the questions it wants about drugs, then, but not on our dime. We already know everything we need to know about drugs. Using them is bad ... which must mean only bad people use them. Bad people deserve punishment, so the nasty effects of drug use are entirely appropriate.
She argues that there's already a public cost for the outcomes of drug addiction, so why not move that cost to helping people stop? Further, she makes the argument that the best way to develop good strategies and effective interventions is, duh, scientific research.

Both posts are worth reading, and both are important calls for understanding, compassion and funding dollars.


4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with these arguments, however on the other hand I believe that some people who use crack or other highly destructive drugs are more interested in a slow suicide than in the more conventionally offered reasons for recreational drug use.

Neil Drug Rehab said...

Good idea to help people to stop taking drugs as we cure them when it get attacked. Keep up..I like...

mediainc said...

I agree to both of you guys, hopefully they will focused on teenage drug rehab, because these are the fragile person in our society.

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