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Report Highlights High Cost of Substance Abuse Prevention in Tennessee

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PHOTO: Research indicates early secure attachment in children as a way to deter the development of addictive personalities. Photo credit: S. Carson.
PHOTO: Research indicates early secure attachment in children as a way to deter the development of addictive personalities. Photo credit: S. Carson.
February 5, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee taxpayers spent more than $3 billion in 2013 on the problem of substance abuse, according to a recently released report from Allies for Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP).

While both the public and private sector continue to allocate funding for drug-treatment programs, a growing body of research indicates a person's childhood lays the foundation for their propensity to be an addict. Susan Hammonds-White, a Nashville-licensed therapist, says early childhood environment is a key factor.

"Connection is the essence of all human relationships," she says. "We're social beings. Children that are raised in an environment that provides an enriched, secure opportunity for attuned connection develop brains that are safer."

Hammonds-White and others point to examples of people given prescription pain medicine for an injury, but never become addicted, while the same drug is sought after by addicts. The ASAP report found that while environmental-prevention strategies can be effective, only 17 percent of state funding is directed at prevention, with the rest being used for treatment.

Experts recommend that society works to foster early secure attachment in children, which offers them stability and trust as they grow. That support can be found in the form of free parent support groups and other community agencies. Hammonds-White says it's important to remember the "origin of addiction" for most people.

"It's an honorable attempt at self-care that has gone wrong," she says. "People don't start out to be addicted. They start out using a substance or a process in some part because it covers up something they don't want to experience at the moment. "

According to the report, for every $1.00 spent on prevention of substance abuse, the state saves a little less than $5.00 in treatment.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN