Alcohol abuse and addiction is a serious problem around the world, and alcohol causes 3.3 million deaths every year around the world. Alcohol is not the only substance abuse problem, with about 15.3 million people suffering from drug use disorders around the world.
In America, about 18.3 million people need treatment for alcohol abuse or addiction. According to a recent report by the Centre of Social Justice in England, the country has 300,000 opiate addicts and 1.6 million alcoholics.
One of the many barriers of substance abuse treatment is the cost, and many people go without treatment because they cannot afford it. A group in Britain has come up with an innovative idea to fund rehab by taxing alcohol.
Alcohol Tax to Fund Rehab
The proposal from the Centre of Social Justice, a think tank in Britain that works on tackling poverty and its causes, has recommended adding a treatment tax that would increase the cost of alcohol in shops by 2 pence per unit by the year 2024. It would begin with a 1 pence raise per unit of alcohol.
This could add as much as 18 pence to a bottle of wine by 2024. They believe this would bring in about 155 million pounds every year starting in 2015, and this total could rise to 520 million a year once the tax increases to 2 pence.
The group wants there to be enough governmentally funded treatment centers to assists 58,000 addicts every year by 2024, and they feel that taxing alcohol would be a reasonable solution to funding enough rehab centers. Although the tax would be on alcohol, the treatment centers would help those addicted to any substance, including drugs.
The Problem with Current Treatment
The group feels that treatment is currently only really available for the wealthy. Those who have to rely upon the public healthcare system have very few choices for treatment. The director, Christian Guy, spoke to BBC Breakfast and said, "At the moment we do very little for alcoholics, and for drug addicts we just dump them on methadone."
Ambitious for Recovery Report
The center proposed its tax idea a report, Ambitious for Recovery, which set out specific measures to help reach its overall goals. It wants to get rid of the site FRANK that offers drug advice, saying that it does not "send a strong signal to young people about the risks of experimenting with drugs."
It also wants to bring screening to job centers to find those at risk of having an addiction. Furthermore, it hopes to support benefit claimants who have addiction problems by providing the opportunity to get help with abstinence-based treatment, and to threaten them with sanctions if they choose not to seek help.
Additionally, they will implement a program using a charge card for parents who are unemployed and have a serious addiction problem to restrict spending to necessary and essential items only. They would also work to educate young people and their parents more about the danger of drugs, especially legal highs that can be very dangerous.
The Department of Health's Solution
Britain's Department of Health is working on tackling the health hazards caused by alcohol abuse and addiction, and believes the tax is unnecessary. It has 5.4 billion pounds in the health budget to assist local authorities in addressing how to handle the harm caused by alcohol, including treatment offerings.
They have also banned selling cheapest cut-price alcohol. The Department of Health believes that the local authorities are in the best situation to understand the needs of the local community, including assessing the need and planning services and treatment for those who need it.
The Wine and Spirit Trade Association also contests the taxing, saying it is an unfair tax hike. The UK already has a high duty tax on alcohol compared to other countries in the EU, and raising the tax even more could harm the industry. It remains to be seen whether the proposal in the report will be applied to Britain's fight against addiction.