State needs more treatment centers

To the Editor:

All Granite State citizens, including me, are very irresponsible drug pushers in that we collectively sell lots of alcohol, the liquid drug, both to in and out of state folks, and yet we do relatively little to prevent and treat problems that result. The mantra of any drug pusher is to sell, sell, sell, and then sell some more, and the hell with the consequences.

Following Prohibition, NH became a so-called control state which established a monopoly on wine and spirit sales. Since then, the Granite State evolved into a highly aggressive seller of low cost alcoholic beverage. Now we are the top seller of booze in the Northeast and third in per capita sales nationally. Yet we continue to rank very near the bottom in state funded prevention and treatment.

I recall being part of a task force in the 1980s that attempted to get our state to address this serious public health issue. Finally in 2000 a dedicated revenue fund was set up based on 5 per cent of the liquor revenues. However, for 14 of the past 15 years the NH legislature has raided this prevention and treatment fund. For example, in 2014-15 the fund should be $16.8 million, but all but $3.6 million has been diverted. Also the current legislature has killed Medicare expansion that included substance abuse treatment.

What would you think of a business that sold a product that caused at least 10 per cent of its users to develop serious health problems, but kept right on selling? Would you be upset if BP just walked away from the Gulf oil spill? What would our roads and bridges look like if most of the gas tax revenues were diverted elsewhere?

I certainly do not have a problem with NH selling alcohol. In fact for years part of my family warehoused liquor and wine for the state. And I enjoy a rum and coke or beer or two from time to time. But I do have an issue with our current dysfunctional relationship with alcohol. We are currently on a liquor store building binge including two new massive liquor stores at the I-93 “safety” rest area in Hooksett. So much for “Don’t drink and drive!”. Question: Where are we building any new treatment facilities?? I only see new jails.

During the current state budget debate I’ve listened to numerous conservatives make statements that the new budget is a responsible one. In light of my above remarks I’d say that is total B.S. For example House Rep. Jim Pearson (R-New Ipswich) recently made comments that reflect fairly common faulty beliefs about addictive disorders. The just published DSM-5 has 104 pages describing substance disorders. And I recently retired after 37 years as a professional addiction counselor.

While lots of people chose to walk in the woods or go to the beach, no one chooses to get poison ivy or skin cancer. Likewise no one chooses to get a DWI or develop alcoholism. Like the guy in recovery said, “I always had good intentions about just having one or two, but typically one led to way too many more. Thankfully with treatment I learned that I was allergic to alcohol because after drinking I’d break out in ‘spots’ like the ER, jail, or divorce court. Without help from others I could not stop because denial and the need to keep using overpowered me. Only with help I learned how to make healthy chooses. And I’m sober, happy, productive, and no longer creating chaos for my family.”

Alcohol, prescriptions and illicit drugs, often abused together, continue to cause massive problems in our culture. Fortunately, these challenges are treatable, thus there is hope. However, because of misinformation and faulty beliefs most of us are part on the on-going problem. For folks like Rep. Pearson I challenge them to attend at least half a dozen open AA meetings. Just go, look and listen. (NHAA.NET) for a meeting list. I’d also suggest we put a moratorium on remodeling and building liquor stores until the prevention funding is finally addressed.