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Wet houses

There’s a fascinating article in the Twin Cities Pioneer Press: They drink more, and you pay less by Bob Shaw.

It’s a concept that can seem counterintuitive, yet actually makes perfect sense — with some people who are dependent on a drug, maintenance of that dependence is a better form of harm reduction than continually attempting forced abstinence.

In this case, the drug is alcohol.

But while the drinking binges continue for Britton and the 59 other alcoholics at St. Anthony, the spending binges have ended. The St. Paul “wet house” is slashing the public’s financial burden for those men by more than 80 percent — saving about $5 million a year.

In a sense, St. Anthony wins the war against alcoholism by surrendering. The facility does what no treatment program will do — allow some of the state’s worst drunks to keep drinking.

That’s how it inspires their respect. Once the street drunks have food, housing and alcohol, they almost completely stop the barroom fights, the drunken driving, the late-night trips to emergency rooms.

This is not a one-size-fits-all situation. For many drunks, getting off the bottle for good is possible and preferable. But for some — those who return again and again and don’t respond to treatment — it’s better both for the individual and for society.

Consider Marion Hagerman. In his 39 years of drinking, the 54-year-old has been arrested about 60 times. He has kept drinking despite six drunken-driving convictions and six 28-day treatment sessions.

His drinking has cost the public more than $450,000. And since he was admitted to St. Anthony’s two years ago?

Nothing. Not a single arrest, detox stay or emergency-room visit.

Something to think about.

And in the larger drug policy arena, it’s also important to remember that one size doesn’t fit all. Each drug is different, and not all users are the same.

[Thanks, Tom]

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32 comments to Wet houses

  • Rhayader

    In a sense, St. Anthony wins the war against alcoholism by surrendering.

    Imagine that — surrendering in a war against personal choice is preferable to fighting it.

  • claygooding

    Simply amazing but entirely to much common sense for our congress to grasp the significance.

    On the ganga front:

    Chevannes and ganja law reform

    http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20101212/focus/focus6.html

    “”That, in order that Jamaica be not left behind, a cannabis research agency be set up, in collaboration with other countries, to coordinate research into all aspects of cannabis, including its epidemiological and psychological effects, and importantly as well its pharmacological and economic potential, such as is being done by many other countries, not least including some of the most vigorous in its suppression””

  • SNARK...

    ” Each drug is different, and not all users are the same.”

    What do ya mean not all users are the same , havent you heard ? Many of those behind the badge consider all drug users to be “SCUM”.

  • darkcycle

    Harm reduction works. Those alcoholics will find it easier to quit when the time comes for them , too. Without support, a place to live and food to eat how the hell can you tackle an intense issue like personal addiction? People will say “you’ve got to hit bottom”. B.S. There is no ‘bottom’ for some addicts. P.S. They’re trying that model on a small scale at a residence in Seattle, and it seems to work.

  • malcolm kyle

    It seems very similar to NJ’s ‘Free Roids For Cops’ project

    http://slatest.slate.com/id/2277749/

  • darkcycle

    The only thing good about that policy is the shrunken balls and early cancers. You nailed it though, Malcolm.

  • Common Science

    Drugs don’t do people, people do drugs. As individual titrators we harbour differing bundles of biological, cultural and epidemiological platforms in which preferred psychoactive substances are consumed to an acceptable level of effectiveness.

    Marijuana, for example, is a pharmacologically active agent the government/mainstream press maintains, creates populations of over-sexed, junk food eating, underachievers. And yet at the same time they will spend much time flogging high achieving pot-loving athletes and musicians etc, for the supposed examples they are setting for ill-parented children.

    How do they also explain the propensity of vegetarian awareness these days, that owes its origin to the hippie culture. Or the fact that in other cultures marijuana is consumed to aid hard manual labour, fasting rituals or abstain from sex?

  • Thanks for that great post. Visit medical marijuana orange county to see how we’re helping.

  • strayan

    Similar thing in Germany:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/german-city-opens-new-pub-ndash-for-alcoholics-2128043.html

    Only their drinking room doesn’t serve alcohol!

    “We are giving space to people who have serious problems who we have been unable to help,” is how Torsten Albig, Kiel’s mayor, justifies the project. “These people are part of our society and they won’t just go away because they are a nuisance.”

    The Kaiserstrasse pub, which opened last week, is the city’s second “drinking room”. It costs taxpayers €33,000 a year to run. The pub is staffed by reformed alcoholics and members of the Hempel’s social welfare organisation, which deals with the city’s so-called “street scene” – the homeless, alcoholics and drug addicts.”

  • Duncan20903

    And now for something completely different, a pot stealing operation that used at least one counterfeit police car as part of the job:

    FLORENCE – Pinal County sheriff’s deputies say they found a car disguised as a patrol car and another car off the side of Interstate 8 in southern Arizona, and both had bails of marijuana in the trunk.

    http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2010/12/13/20101213arizona-fake-patrol-car-with-pot.html

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by YourBrainonDrugs.net, Sharon Ritei. Sharon Ritei said: whats up Wet houses: But while the drinking binges continue for Britton and the 59 other alcoholics at… http://bit.ly/dP8Xo0 take care […]

  • This mirrors exactly what I wrote in my 2004 book: allowing those addicts unable or unwilling to stop to continue consuming in a non-judgmental and safe (for everyone) environment. It really is just as simple as that.

  • jaycee

    Gosh, kinda makes ya wanna be a drunk….free food,housing and alcohol?? livin’ the dream. sounds better than my life… I actually have to work for those things.

  • denmark

    …….
    Chill out jaycee, obviously you do not understand.

  • strayan

    I’m thinking jaycee’s comment is tongue in cheek denmark.

    No sane individual would wish for a long term alcohol dependence. It is absolutely ruinous.

  • darkcycle

    Yeah, all you have to do to get all those wonderful perks is become a terminal alcoholic. Whats a little time on the street, liver damage and social ostracism? I mean really, if all you have to do to get a free ride is to spend years lost in an alcoholic haze, waking up mornings in a pool of your own shit and vomit, maybe some exposure to Hep A, B, and C too, a little venereal disease…and failing multiple times to recover from said condition, where do I sign up? Sounds like my spring breaks during college. (this comment now with EXTRA snark)

  • rita

    “And in the larger drug policy arena, it’s important to remember” that most of the damage attributed to illicit drug use is actually a direct result of prohibition and the war mentality of the police. It’s important to remember that the destruction of human life isn’t an “unintended consequence” of our nation’s drug policy; it’s the whole point. There’s one solution to America’s “drug problem”, and it is, in fact, one-size-fits-all: Leave us the hell alone.

  • pfroehlich2004

    I wonder if the administrators of this program have made any attempts at drug substitution.

    Providing free marijuana, or morphine for that matter, would vastly reduce the negative health outcomes inherent to chronic alcoholism.

  • kaptinemo

    “I wonder if the administrators of this program have made any attempts at drug substitution.

    Providing free marijuana, or morphine for that matter, would vastly reduce the negative health outcomes inherent to chronic alcoholism.”

    Pfroelich2004 points out another one of those ‘all that’s old is new again’ maxims about the DrugWar; that was tried successfully several times in the past.

    Many physicians in the 19th century actually did implement such methodologies, noting even back then cannabis’s relative lack of toxicity and tendency to not promote violence made it a very viable substitute for alcohol…which, of course, modern-day purveyors of alcoholic beverages know all too well and thus seek to throttle any attempt to endanger their livelihoods by supporting cannabis prohibition.

  • Duncan20903

    jaycee, they give the same deal to bank robbers if you don’t want to be a drunk. Admittedly it’s a better deal for gay people, but there are always trade offs in life. You don’t need a gun, or to do anything more than to write a note on a piece of paper and hand it to the teller. Tell the policeman you’re financing the overthrow of the county’s government when he asks you why he did it. Viva la evolucion!

    I’ve also read about people who act as if they resent people that are on public assistance as well, complaining how they “have to” work for a living, yet I still haven’t run into anyone that has volunteered to take advantage of these programs.

    Hey, while I’m on the subject, why don’t bank robbers ever threaten to come back and kill the teller if they slip them one of those exploding dye packs? I’d be pissed if I went to the trouble of robbing a bank and ended up having to sit up all night with a bottle of nail polish remover to make my money spendable.

  • darkcycle

    Substitution doesn’t fit with the current treatment paradigm which holds all drugs as equivilant. The fact that it works and that it’s been done successfully before isn’t part of the equation.
    See, “what works” and “what’s profitable” are in conflict here, and “what’s profitable” will win out in that contest every time.

  • Duncan20903

    pfroehlich2004, not the government, but the good people at Harborside Health in Oakland and San Diego are promoting cannabis substitution as a treatment for degenerate addiction.

    Someday people may come to their senses and get the religionism and idolatry* out of the ‘mainstream’ treatments for people so afflicted.

    Dr. Tod Mikuriya was working a study on this before he died.

    Cannabis as a Substitute for Alcohol: A Harm-Reduction Approach

    —Tod H. Mikuriya

    http://www.mikuriya.com/cw_alcsub.pdf

    *(google “higher power” +doorknob and “higher power” +”door knob” for examples of idolatry in 12 step dogma)

  • Duncan20903

    Yes DC, no doubt that there isn’t any interest from the posers that be in what actually works. That’s why the word dogma is appropriate to describe their overall philosophy of ‘sobriety’. The problem for the posers that be is that the people are interested in what works, and they’re only going to be able to keep people seeing their manifest lies as ‘truth’ until enough people realize that they are lying through their teeth.

  • davidstvz

    If they’re going to provide a place to drink, they ought to administer naltrexone along with it (i.e. the sinclair method for curing alcoholism). They’ve already done the hard part.

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