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September 2003
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*More Fun with Numbers…*

More Fun with Numbers…
A new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (released yesterday) is being reported in the news today: New U.S. survey finds millions of new drug abusers (The Washington Times touts: “22 million Americans are addicts”),
This study involved extensive interviews with individuals who were paid $30 each for their time. The report showed that there are 22 million substance abusers in the United States.
Now the SAMHSA study also reported that “Over 94 percent of people with substance use disorders who did not receive treatment did not believe they needed treatment.”
Naturally, our drug czar immediately jumped in to promote his agenda:

“A denial gap of over 94 percent is intolerable,” said John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. “People need to understand the addictive nature of drugs and not presume that they are all right when everyone around them knows better.”

Now, first of all, over 2/3 of that 94% were categorized in the study for alcohol abuse. Second, some of the definitions that the government uses for substance abuse border are ridiculous. For example, someone having a problem with their marijuana use is classified as a substance abuser, even if that problem is the fact that the drug is illegal. (Here’s a great idea — we could reduce levels of substance abuse by legalizing marijuana!)
Naturally, the drug czar sees a “94% denial gap.” He wants to convince people that all use of certain arbitrarily determined drugs is harmful. However, a 94% denial gap tells me that there’s a problem with the data. Certainly, there are some people who need treatment for alcohol or other drugs who aren’t getting it. We need to focus on those. Not arbitrarily create inflated numbers through poor methodologies and junk science in government studies.

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