20 years. How many missed opportunities?

SAMHSA has an interesting report on the length of time between first use of a substance to treatment entry.

It’s not surprising that alcoholics have the longest duration of use before receiving treatment, but why? Is it due to longer periods of non-problematic use? Because it’s a celebrated drug in our culture?

I’m a little surprised that prescription drugs have the shortest. Why is that? Ideas? The report speculates that problems develop more quickly with prescription drugs. More quickly than heroin? That’s a little hard to swallow.

It’d be nice to see the time between the beginning of problematic use and treatment entry.


6 thoughts on “20 years. How many missed opportunities?

  1. I think you’re right about the alcohol. I’m also surprised about the RX Drugs.

    I wonder if this criteria has anything to do with if they got caught (arrested) or not. Perhaps court ordered rehab may play into this?

    I read your blog all the time, just don’t comment much 🙂

    1. Good question. Particularly if the Rx addict is getting their drugs from the medical system rather than the street. Maybe it puts people at higher risk for arrest? Also, maybe police have been making Rx street drugs a high priority?

  2. My son, in his heroin addiction, was homeless in Detroit; sleeping by day at the Detroit Public Library, and holding a cardboard sign outside the Motor City Casino at night. He had no insurance, no job, no license, no support,no education…. not one bridge left to burn.

    I’m thinking the (average) middle class Rx abuser has gotten the pills originally for a medical condition, then become addicted. When the consequences start building, perhaps a spouse leaves or a reprimand on the job, this person has the insurance to seek treatment. They have not burned all their bridges of support with family. They still have their home and car. They are educated. They seek treatment sooner because they have the financial means and family support to do so.

    Of course, this is not the case with everyone, but it could account for the difference. I also believe there is less social stigma to Rx addiction than to heroin addiction, another incentive to seek treatment sooner.

    1. Another reader emailed me speculating the same thing. It’s my first thought too, but I don’t know enough about the use patterns of Rx drugs. In SE Michigan this would make a lot of sense–anyone who starts with Rx drugs and does not transition to heroin probably has access to more money than most street drug users. I don’t know whether or not this is the case across the country. My impression is that your average oxy user in Appalachia is pretty poor, but that could be media distortion.

    1. Good to see your name pop up!

      It would be interesting. I’d really want to see a lot of detail. Most drug users use more than one drug, so it would be
      Interesting to see multiple drug dependence versus multiple drug misuse. Use patterns would be interesting too. Do they use them together? Or, do they go back and forth–crash and burn with one and then switch to the other.

      Thanks for the comment!

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