The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) recently released a comprehensive three-year study entitled, Shoveling Up: The Impact of Substance Abuse on State Budgets. The report is the first ever to analyze the impact of substance abuse on state budgets. It found that in 1998, states spent a total of 81.3 billion dollars on substance abuse and addiction (13.1 percent of all state spending).
The report reveals that for every dollar spent on substance abuse and addiction, 96 cents went to deal with the wreckage caused by drug and alcohol abuse while only 4 cents went to prevent and treat substance abuse. Using the most conservative assumptions, the report discovered that in 1998 states spent:
• $77.9 billion to shovel up the wreckage of substance abuse, only $3 billion to prevent and treat the problem, and $433 million for alcohol and tobacco regulation and compliance.
• $24.9 billion to cope with the impact of substance abuse on children. States spend 113 times as much to clean up the devastation that substance abuse visits on children as they do to prevent and treat it.
Of the 77.9 billion dollars spent on the wreckage caused by substance abuse, the largest portion (30.7 billion dollars) was spent in the justice system. Over 15 billion dollars were spent on the health costs associated with drugs and alcohol, and 7.7 billion dollars were spent in child and family assistance.
Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA President and former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, said, "States that want to reduce crime, slow the rise in Medicaid spending, move more mothers and children from welfare to work and responsible and nurturing family life must shift from shoveling up the wreckage to preventing children and teens from abusing drugs, alcohol, and nicotine and treating individuals who get hooked. The choice for governors and state legislators is this: either continue to tax their constituents for funds to shovel up the wreckage of alcohol, drug, and nicotine abuse and addiction or recast their priorities to focus on preventing and treating such abuse and addiction."