Begging for the Whole Truth about Drug Rehab

Today I wrote a letter to the Globe in response to this article:

If only Richard Farrell’s arguments for his narrow-minded “rehab for all” program were as thorough as his own recovery from drug addiction (“Begging for help on Crack Street”, 4/29/09, A11). Unfortunately, we’re left with another feel-good solution that wastes taxpayer money and fails to address the fact that most recovering drug addicts don’t get it right the first time, fifth time, or even the 15th time, as in the author’s own case.

The result of the Sisyphean rehabilitation journey is not only astronomical costs ($11.4 billion in 1997 according to SAMHSA), as the addict will probably require institutional services for several years, but while all this time goes by, the addict runs the risk of ensuring the drug epidemic’s continuation by having children.

Children of drug or alcohol addicts constitute 75% of the half-million foster children in the US (source: Child Welfare League of America). As you can imagine, addicts’ kids tend to become addicts themselves, and to perpetuate poverty, crime, and addiction by bearing their own children, who tend to become addicts themselves, and to perpetuate poverty, crime, and addiction…

The solution is to treat drug abuse as one would treat any other epidemic. First, quarantine the infected. This means, offer monetary incentives for drug and alcohol addicts to go on birth control until they kick the habit. Project Prevention ( offers up to $300 per year to addicts who go on long-term birth control or get sterilized. $300 per year is a pittance compared to the cost that taxpayers pay to manage a child who will quickly spend his or her formative years with social service agencies, and soon after that, corrections facilities. While privileged “reproductive rights” advocates and presumptuous journalists might find it distasteful to pay addicts to stop having kids, the alternative is a never-ending nightmare for children and society at large.