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 â€” 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 â€” 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 â€” 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 â€” those who return again and again and don’t respond to treatment â€” 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.