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New guide for policymakers urges improvements in early detection, intervention and treatment

A new guide for political, health care and law enforcement policymakers just published by CASAColumbia says improvements are needed across the boards in prevention, early detection and treatment if we’re ever going to get a real handle on substance abuse and addiction.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, better known as CASAColumbia, regularly publishes its research into all aspects of addiction.

This new Guide for Policymakers: Prevention, Early Intervention and Treatment of Risky Substance Use and Addiction is a compilation of “effective policies and practices that delineates specific actions for improving the prevention and treatment of risky substance use and addiction in the U.S.”

The guide offers “concrete, science-based recommendations of unprecedented breadth and depth for improving how policymakers working in all levels of government and in the health care, education, justice and social services systems can reduce addiction and risky substance use.”

According to CASAColumbia’s research, risky substance use and addiction constitute the largest preventable and most costly public health problem in the U.S., totaling over $467 billion a year. Yet out of every state and federal tax dollar spent on substance abuse and addiction, less than two cents goes toward prevention and treatment, while most of the rest is spent dealing with the catastrophic consequences of our failure to prevent and treat addiction in the first place.

The group says there is “abundant evidence pointing to what works best and to the fact that thoughtful, well-implemented and research-based policies and programs can make a substantial difference.”

Prevention, early intervention and treatment

To effectively address addiction and risky substance use, improvements are needed in:

  • Prevention
    Prevent risky substance use through public education and awareness, school- and community-based programming, and effective regulations that reduce the availability, accessibility and appeal of addictive substances.
  • Early detection and intervention
    Spot problems when they begin, and intervene early with those at risk via routine screening and therapeutic interventions.
  • Treatment and disease management
    Provide effective treatment, disease management and support for those with addiction.

The guide also addresses important and emerging issues, including those related to:

  • Marijuana legalization
  • Alternative nicotine products
  • Medication-assisted treatment in the health care and justice systems
  • Health care, education and justice reform.

Only 11 percent of people in need of treatment are actually receiving any form of treatment, CASAColumbia said. And one-third of all inpatient hospital costs are linked to addiction and risky substance use. The new guide offers comprehensive strategies for professionals involved in treatment, management or research. It offers numerous strategies for cutting costs while increasing effectiveness.

“It’s rare that a day goes by without seeing a major news story highlighting the significant challenges cities, states and the federal government face when it comes to combating substance abuse and addiction,” said Samuel A. Ball, PhD, President and CEO. “Policymakers and many current presidential candidates are seriously looking for solutions and this new guide offers them proven, research-based strategies for preventing and addressing the serious and often deadly problems associated with addiction, which affect individuals, families and society.”

The CASAColumbia guide can be downloaded free of charge as a PDF at the group’s website.

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