Amid efforts on Capitol Hill to trim federal entitlement and public assistance spending comes a study that quantifies the financial toll of substance abuse.
The study by the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, New York, found that smoking, drinking and drug addiction will cost the federal government $77.6 billion in fiscal 1995. That's nearly 20% of the $430 bil-Public health
lion that will be spent on entitlement and welfare programs.
For the past 21/2 years, the center has been analyzing the impact of substance abuse and addiction on America's healthcare system. The report released last week tallies total costs of healthcare services for all federal health programs. State and local costs would add at least $19 billion, it said.
Some $66.4 billion of the $77.6 billion tab represents healthcare and disability costs resulting from substance abuse. The remaining $11.2 billion reflects the cost of welfare benefits and food stamps received by addicts.
Tobacco accounts for a whopping 65% of all substance-abuse costs, the study found. Veterans health spends more of its budget-some 28.8%-on tobacco abuse than other departments.
Joseph A. Califano Jr., the center's president, said the federal government must provide adequate funding for substance-abuse treatment, cut welfare payments to people who refuse treatment and charge higher Medicare premiums for beneficiaries who smoke.