New Year Resolutions to Help Sober Up our ‘High Society’
publication date: Jan 4, 2011
Substance abuse is a gigantic problem and affects all of us. And, all of us can do something to help reduce the problem.
The following "New Year Resolutions" are offered by Joseph A. Califano, Jr. (photo below). He is founding Chairman of the Board and President of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), an independent non-profit think/action tank affiliated with Columbia University. Mr. Califano has served on a number of Fortune 500 company boards and is currently a member of several for profit and not for profit boards. He is the author of eleven books with his most recent being, High Society: How Substance Abuse Ravages America and What To Do About It (PublicAffairs).
The New Year is a time for resolutions and here are my suggestions for some of those responsible for curbing drug and alcohol abuse and addiction:
- For doctors: Resolve to take responsibility to treat substance abuse and addiction with the same medical professionalism devoted to other diseases.
- For medical schools: Resolve to give more than the usual two or three hours to teach the subject of substance abuse and addiction. Then medical students won’t have to wait until their clinical training, residencies and fellowships to learn how alcohol and other drug abuse and addiction cause and exacerbate most ailments and accidents they will confront as family doctors, general surgeons or cancer or other specialists.
- For public health professionals: Resolve to mount against underage drinking and teen drug experimentation the same kind of intensive, relentless and persuasive campaign that they have mounted against cigarette smoking and AIDS.
- For the media: Resolve to require health reporters to become educated about and conversant with the subject of substance abuse, to have obituaries report when the decedent who dies of lung or other cancers was a smoker, to cover the dangers of marijuana to our children with the same energy they devote to covering the social acceptance of the drug, which is now 10 times the strength it was in the 70s, and to include in coverage of assaults, rapes, murderers and robberies whether the accused was high on alcohol or other drugs at the time of the offense.
- For mayors, school boards and education officials: Resolve to report the number of kids who drop out because of their drug and alcohol abuse or that of their parents.
- For college presidents and provosts: Resolve to end their see, hear, speak-no-evil attitude about campus alcohol abuse, which each year accounts for the deaths of 2,000 students, the rapes and sexual assaults of 100,000 college women, and the hundreds of thousands of student injuries, many paralyzing and life altering.
- For the governors and states worried about Medicaid costs: Resolve to screen beneficiaries for drug and alcohol problems and intervene with those who have them because treating such problems will save states billions of dollars since patients with drug and alcohol problems incur $5,000 to $7,000 per year more in health care costs than substance-free beneficiaries.
- For the Obama Administration, which wants to hang on to Obamacare, and the Republicans who want to dismantle it: Resolve to find common ground to recognize the phenomenal health care cost savings potential in reducing smoking, and alcohol and illegal and prescription drug abuse, and join together to take action to prevent and treat it.
- For parents: Resolve to be engaged in your children’s lives, to talk to them about the dangers of underage drinking and drug use, and to demand drug-free schools.
- For all of us: Resolve to remove the stigma that clings to drug addiction, to recognize that this is a complex neurological, emotional, psychological and spiritual disease, to help those trying to shake their addiction (have you ever tried to lose weight and keep it off? Multiply that difficulty by a thousand to appreciate how hard it is to shake a drug addiction), and to demand that our health practitioners and researchers accord this malady the same respect they accord other chronic, relapsing diseases like hypertension and diabetes.