Colorado Lagging in Drug Prevention Money

April 24 2006, 10:28 AM

A new study by The National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University has found that while Colorado has the second-highest rate of substance abuse in the country, we spend the least on abuse prevention, treatment and research.

For every $100 Colorado spent on the problems created by substance abuse, the state spent only 6 cents on research and treatment. This compares with an average of $3.70 per $100 spent by other states, with $10.22 spent by North Dakota, the nation's leader.

House Speaker Andrew Romanoff agrees it's a problem that needs correcting.

"It's not because we don't have the money ... the money is being used to fund effects of abuse. We have chosen not to fund prevention and treatment, and it's a bad choice.

An increase in alchohol taxes is under consideration as a way to raise money for treatment and prevention programs. The Houston Chronicle had an editorial this weekend about how we are losing the supply end of the war on drugs. Despite giving $4 billion to Columbia in aid over the past few years , most of which was targeted for reducing coca production, the opposite result was achieved. Coca production increased, last year by 21 percent. The paper notes:

If expensive efforts to limit the supply of cocaine are not working, perhaps the money would be better spent in an effort to limit demand....Treatment programs help many drug addicts to quit and lead productive lives, but spaces are limited. Many prisons filled with drug and alcohol abusers lack adequate treatment programs, perpetuating the problem when inmates return to the streets. One thing seems clear. Spending $4 billion on a program that is helpless to prevent expanded coca production would be better spent at home on prevention and treatment.

Instead of a tax increase, Colorado legislators might consider reducing some of its non-effective enforcement programs (and foregoing enacting new ones ) to use some of that money on prevention and treatment programs. But, it's an election year and candidates will want to show they are tough on crime, particularly meth, and undoubtedly propose new laws with greater penalties that will cost us more in the long run and do nothing to reduce demand.

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