Health officials estimate 60,000 residents are addicted to alcohol or illicit drugs;
Mayor announces Comprehensive Strategy to combat Substance Abuse.
(Washington, D.C.) - Today, Mayor Anthony Williams joined with Ivan C.A. Walks, M.D., Chief Health Officer of the District of Columbia, to proclaim September as National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month at the citys comprehensive Methadone Treatment Program at 33 N Street, N.E. (the Mayors proclamation is attached) The Mayor and the Department of Healths Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration also used this occasion to release the first District-wide household survey on substance abuse. The rates of addiction in the District were substantially higher than the national average: 9.0 percent of District residents report a dependence on drugs and alcohol compared with the national estimate of 4.8 percent identified in the federal governments National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.
For illegal drugs alone, the rate of addiction in the District of Columbia was nearly 40 percent higher than the rate of addiction for the nation: 9.6 percent based on the District of Columbia Household survey versus the 6.9 percent use rate estimated by the National Household Survey. Moreover, because the District of Columbia Survey excludes homeless and institutionalized populations in the District, the addiction rates may be conservative. Larry Siegel, M.D., the Senior Deputy Director for Medical Affairs and the Administrator of the Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration, estimates that approximately 60,000 District residents are addicted to alcohol and other drugs at a medical and social cost of $1.2 billion per year.
"This survey tells us clearly and unequivocally that addiction to drugs and alcohol is an equal opportunity disease and a major health problem that needs to be addressed," said Ivan C.A. Walks, the Chief Health Officer of the District and the Director of the Department of Health. "No matter where you live, how old you are, your level of education, or your background or ethnic origin, the survey indicates that too many of our residents are addicted and need access to treatment and support for recovery." The District of Columbia Household Survey also found that nearly 20 percent of smokers and 13 percent of those using alcohol reported experiencing health and social problems.
Making a public commitment to declare a "New Day for Treatment and Recovery in the District", Mayor Anthony Williams said, "The District needs and we will develop and execute a comprehensive substance abuse strategy ---the first in the nation---that aims to reduce the number of addicted persons by 25,000 and the annual social cost of drug abuse by 2005. This is a huge undertaking but we must invest in health in order to improve the quality of life for every resident." (See attached for lists of Mayors record of commitment to substance abuse addiction and treatment issues).
The District of Columbia Household Survey also revealed dramatic differences in drug use on the basis of gender. District males currently use drugs at almost two and a half times the rate of females (14.1 percent for males versus 5.8 percent for females). Data on cocaine use revealed that 42 percent of respondents who have completed one or more years of college or graduate school reported having used cocaine at least once during their lifetimes. The highest percentage of male respondents who used cocaine at least once in their lifetimes indicated that they resided in Ward 3, while the highest percentage for female respondents using cocaine live in Ward 6.
Troubling rates of alcohol and tobacco use by District youth were also indicated by the Survey. About one in every six adolescents (aged 12-17) or 17.2 percent reported current (within the month preceding the survey) alcohol use . The rate of current alcohol use by those aged 18-24 jumped drastically to 64.8 percent. In addition, the 18-24 age group also showed the highest rates of cigarette smoking within the District. Among all District residents surveyed, approximately 110,000 or 26 percent reported smoking cigarettes at least once during the thirty days prior to the survey.
The Department of Health engaged Westcom International Ltd. to conduct the District of Columbia Household Survey in every Ward of the city during December 2000. 1,535 households participated in the Survey. Full copies of the main findings of the District of Columbia Survey on Substance Abuse are available to the public through the Department of Healths Office of Communication and Community Relations (202) 442-9195.
At todays press conference, Mayor Williams also commemorated National Recovery Month with the introduction of members of his Interagency Task Force on Substance Abuse. In addition, a public service announcement has been aired on radio throughout the month to highlight the availability and benefits of treatment.