Letter to the New York Post
January 18, 2013
We are pleased to see that The Post has drawn attention to risky substance use and addiction as key public health concerns in the article “The price of legal pot.” Policies around addiction must be driven by conclusions drawn from scientific research.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a chronic disease of the brain. CASAColumbia researchers have found evidence that addiction affects 40 million Americans ages 12 and older. That is more than the share of this population with heart disease, diabetes, or cancer. An additional 80 million people engage in risky use of addictive substances in ways that can threaten public health and safety.
CASAColumbia researchers have also found evidence that among risky users of addictive substances, 30 percent are risky users of multiple substances. More than half of people with the disease of addiction are risky users of multiple substances while 17 percent meet the medical criteria of addiction for multiple substances.
In 9 out of 10 cases addiction originates with first substance use before the age of 21 according to a CASAColumbia study. This finding suggests that adolescence may be the critical period of vulnerability for the onset of substance use and the development of addiction.
We believe that evidence-based policies will help reduce risky substance abuse and addiction. The result would be better health and wellness for all people.
Jayaram Srinivasan, MD, MPH, CPH
Senior Medical Advisor
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASAColumbia)