Sunday, December 1, 2013

Drugs and Alcohol Abuse Rises with Unemployment

The title of this article at Aljazeera.Com says "1 in 6 unemployed Americans abuses drugs or alcohol". At first, it appears to imply that the jobless were unemployed BECAUSE they abused drugs or alcohol; but these edited excerpts from their report below tells a much different story. So why didn't the title say something like: "Drugs and alcohol abuse rises with unemployment".

About 1 in 6 unemployed Americans suffers from drug or alcohol addiction — nearly twice the rate of substance abuse found in working Americans — according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released Tuesday.

But a study published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in July looked at drug use and unemployment during the U.S. recession between 2008 and 2010 and had determined that it was mostly because the unemployed had turned to drugs and alcohol as a result of being unemployed (rather than being the reason as to why they're unemployed).

As the U.S. unemployment rate spiked from 5 percent to nearly 10 percent, substance abuse remained fairly constant among the unemployed. That wouldn't have been the case if substance abuse were more a "cause" rather than an "effect" of unemployment."

The Fed study mentions one reason as:

A causal effect of unemployment on drug abuse. A person who moves from employment to unemployment observes an increase in his/her odds of consuming illegal drugs. This causality could be generated, for example, by the urge to appease the financial hardship imposed by unemployment on families, by the increase in spare time that comes with job loss or by increased personal contact with the chronically unemployed. One interesting consequence of our third factor is that, during episodes of large increases in unemployment, the number of drug users can increase dramatically.

The Fed study says they don't know as yet as to whether these effects are just temporary or have long-lasting consequences. Of course, it's much more complicated than just that, so read the article and studies that they refer to.

We've heard, all too often, from Fox News and the Republican politicians, that employers could not find anyone to fill jobs --- either because they lacked the proper skills (which mostly turned out to be false) or because they failed to pass drug tests. The latter being one reason why Republican politicians would also like to drug test recipients of unemployment benefits and food stamps as part of "means testing" before one could qualify for these government benefits.

So unless someone literally "read between the lines" of that article at Aljazeera.Com, and they only read the title, it could be potentially harmful to the poor and unemployed, who are already being accused of being lazy drug addicts --- because the media drives public opinion, which can convert to public policy.

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