We won't be able to arrest our way out of the drug issue in America

This administration and Congress are finally paying attention to America's opioid issue, which has been long overdue.

12/21/20220 min read

The March omnibus budget package allocated $3.3 billion to fight the issue, which is a considerable boost but far from adequate to satisfy the need.

We are in the midst of the nation's deadliest drug overdose pandemic in history. In 2016, more than 64,000 people died in the United States from drug overdoses, with opioids accounting for at least two-thirds of those deaths.

Despite the fact that more work remains to be done, this infusion of funding is a start in the right direction—as long as the monies are focused toward proven treatments. Many excellent evidence-based treatments have been established in psychology, and they should be widely disseminated. The American Psychological Association (APA) is urging policymakers to emphasize the following topics, which are all areas where psychology may make a substantial contribution.

Increasing access to integrated pain management services and treatment of associated mental health illnesses, as well as promoting nonpharmacological treatment for chronic pain.

As part of medication-assisted treatment and other psychosocial therapies, providing a comprehensive continuum of care for persons addicted to opioids, including psychotherapy and counseling.

For those battling with addiction, recovery support programs such as housing, education, and supported jobs are available.

Expanding the workforce of mental health and substance abuse treatment providers and improving the performance of health-care practitioners through education and training.

Increasing research funding into psychosocial therapies for the treatment of chronic pain, opioid addiction, and other substance use disorders.

Improving the system of service delivery, including service availability and quality.

Advocating for drug courts to help people get into treatment.

The much-discussed proposed new mandatory minimum penalties for opioid-related drug charges, up to and including death for the most serious offenses, are not included on this list. We've tried arresting our way out of a drug issue before, and it didn't work then, and it won't work now. Addiction is a medical condition. Let's put less emphasis on punishment and more on helping those that need it.