FRIDAY, SEPT. 28: The impact of substance misuse is not just on the individual user but on their children, relatives, employer and the social and economic fabric of our community.

It affects all of us when one person is unable to contribute to the well-being of Bermuda.

In most communities, governments address substance abuse as a public health problem. In Bermuda it is being tackled through Government research, prevention, intervention, treatment, drug supply reduction and interdiction.

Despair

In the US, “the annual total estimated societal cost of substance abuse is $510.8 billion”(Miller, T. & Hendrie, D. Substance abuse prevention dollars and cents: A cost-benefit analysis, 2009).

The World Health Organization (2004) estimates that by 2020, “behavioural health disorders will surpass all physical diseases as a major cause of disability worldwide” (Promoting mental health: Concepts, emerging evidence, practice).

For those unaware of the impact and complexity of an addiction, please try to understand that there are many variables beyond our assumptions.

Drug use is usually preceded by physical and emotional pain (trauma), poverty, neglect and despair.

Most of us seek relief from pain and discomfort through comforting strategies, which can become habitual. Reliance on chemicals can become addictive.

Substances of addiction are not limited to illegal drugs such as heroin, crack cocaine and marijuana, but also include alcohol, nicotine and prescription agents such as sleep aids, pain medications and over-the-counter (OTC) agents like some cough syrups.

The detrimental effects are primarily located in the filtering organs of the body, such as the liver and kidneys, and control organs such as the brain, glands and the heart, lungs, and blood vessels.

The extent of the damage caused by substance abuse varies depending on the substance, the mode, duration and quantity of use, and the individual.

Risks to physical health include HIV, sexually transmitted infections, heart attacks, strokes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, stomach and intestinal disorders, hepatitis, and a myriad  of brain and central nervous symptom disorders through the periods of use, and beyond.

These impairments result in the need for increased interventions, by health, legal, family, education and economic systems.

 Bermuda is directly and indirectly impacted through the strong links that exist between drug addiction and our top social problems.

These include impaired driving, violence, crime, stress, family breakdown, and domestic and child abuse, all of which impact not just individual health but the health of the nation. 

Therefore, the management of substances requires the committed effort of the entire community.

Incarceration has been disproved as a solution for criminal behaviour involving drugs and other behavioural disorders; however criminal justice is a large recipient of the addicted population.

The DTC (Drug Treatment Court) is one solution to rehabilitate offenders and to work in cooperation with Bermuda’s treatment network to reduce recidivism and protect the overall welfare of Bermudians.

Effectively addressing problems requires an integrated public health and public safety approach. 

Treatment decreases drug problems, crime, and recidivism while improving health conditions.

Alcohol and other drug problems place a huge burden on our economy — resulting in high healthcare costs, productivity losses and other expenses associated with crime and accidents (Belenko et al., 2005).

A large portion of this economic burden falls on the Government, and in this climate of fiscal constraints, treatment saves money and responds to the long-term rehabilitation of individuals addicted to drugs.

Join SAMHSA (US agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and Bermuda’s prevention and recovery efforts in support of this year’s Recovery Month’s slogan ‘It’s worth it’.

• Angria Bassett is programme manager for the Women’s Treatment Centre, a Department for National Drug Control substance abuse treatment programme. Call 292-3049.