Thursday, October 8, 2015

High Costs of Prohibition

One of the biggest misconceptions about pain control comes from the myth of the addict. Addicts are only a very small percentage of the population, according to many sources, 1.3% of the population. These people wish to escape their reality, because they have difficulty coping with it. Yet 20% of the population, a staggering 25.5 times the number of addicts, have the same problem coping with their reality due to chronic pain. But chronic pain patients are trying to avoid reality, not to separate themselves from responsibility, to be able to be responsible for themselves and their lives. This is just one reason why our current drug prohibition is completely insane. There are many other reasons, a few of which I'll give here.

We only need to look at the number of people employed by hospitals and emergency rooms to see the human cost of drug policy. A little bit of math on the numer of employees per bed in an ER gives a ratio of 14 employees per bed per shift. That's fourteen people to take care of one. When we are incapable of taking care of our most basic bodily functions, a very small number of patients suck up an enormous number of resources. Looking specificly at the cost of chronic pain, the costs of lost productivity and medical care (in 2015 dollars) is an estimated $613 billion to $694 billion, accorting to the National Institutes of Health. This amount, according to the study, represents more than the annual cost of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer combined. Chronic pain is the largest continuous drain on our resources, both medical and economic.

And the reason chronic pain is the largest continuous drain on our economy is because of the behavior of 1.3% of the population, most of whom outgrow their addiction naturally (50% of addicts give up their addiction naturally, without intervention over time). When we include the $41 billion spent on drug prohibition, we're talking about less than one percent of the population costing our economy an average of $674 billion, annually. This is not counting the human costs as a result of crime, violence, and suffering that results from this prohibition.

Can we please admit that our current drug prohibition is absolutely insane? We have for decades now done the same thing over and over, expecting that we can irradicate drug addiction with catastrophic results for people who are not addicts. We are hurting law-abiding citizens in the tens of millions for the behavior of a minute few, half of which get better on their own!

Let's wake up, America. There is no boogieman who lives in chemical substances. No one becomes an addict simply by injesting a drug. Doctor Jeckle and Mister Hyde is a dangerous myth, one we desperately need to dispell. We went to war on drugs, but it has become a war on patients with astronomical costs. We thought we learned our lesson by 1933 with the failure of alcohol prohibition, but the sad truth is we are still delusional fools today.

Come on, America... We're so much better than this. End the War on Patients.

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