Could Ignoring Alcohol Use Disorder Negatively Affect Development Outcomes?

In America, the opioid epidemic is galvanizing leaders across industries to challenge the standard of care given to people suffering from addiction because the fatality rates are so high. One of the states hit hardest by the addiction crisis is West Virginia, where over 1000 people died in 2017 due to a drug related causes. In 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded West Virginia $35 million to fund addiction care and treatment. In a recent article, Joe Manchin, D- W. Va. noted that half of his states residents knew a friend or family member addicted to opioids. Even given these staggering statistics, addiction is not limited to just one drug or one location. In fact, the opioid epidemic shone the light on an ongoing topic of care that affects people globally, that of access to treatment and recovery care infrastructure.

Sadly, the number of people who develop substance use disorder, meaning a reliance on a mood altering substance, is rising in many countries where development projects spend their biggest dollars and look for the biggest results. However, the rise in research, education, and treatment is not matching these health needs. Classified as a non-communicable disease by the World Health Organization, alcohol-use disorder is responsible for a decrease in DALY (Disability adjusted life years) in countries around the world.

The phenomenon of addiction exists within a global context where social systems, economic changes and health care interconnect. Substance use disorder affects people and families in many ways, including intimate partner violence, sexual and physical and child abuse, lost earnings, and road safety, to name some effects. In total 13 of the Sustainable Development Goals and 52 targets are affected by alcohol use disorder, according to IOGT International.

Might we see better development outcomes by focusing on treatment and recovery outcomes?