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The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, January 14, 2008

Where Are We Headed?

A number of news headlines and press releases tell us where we are going with drugs and alcohol – in very confusing circles.

The first was the wide coverage given to a British finding that following four steps – regular mild exercise, eating five servings of vegetables and fruit daily, not smoking, and moderate drinking – adds 14 years to lives. This is the first time the fact that moderate drinking prolongs life has been publicized in American mass media.

At the same time, two major grants were announced to end youthful alcohol abuse: the Safe and Drug Free Schools National Program Grants, by the U.S. Department of Education, and NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Alcohol Education Grants. These education programs focus on the dangers of alcohol and on abstinence.

Meanwhile, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) announced its draft Strategic Plan. This is a sophisticated document that recognizes complex causation of addiction. But there is no denying its touchstone is neurobiological mechanisms thought to underlie and to cause drug addiction. Nowhere does the strategy mention harm reduction.

At the same time, the NIDA announced a small ($3.5 million) Screening and Brief Intervention Grants program for general medical settings. The NIDA must fund brief interventions, since they are undeniably successful. But they function by identifying drug-using patients and advising them to cut back their use of generally addictive drugs.

Ah, of all the world’s – and America’s – intractable problems, drugs and alcohol will always be with us, simply in terms of figuring out what the problem we are attacking is.