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Durham, Edgecombe, Harnett, Nash and Cumberland counties have the deepest drug and alcohol problems in the state, according to a report Tuesday by the Alcohol / Drug Council of North Carolina.

Of the other urban counties, Mecklenburg, the most populous, ranked seventh, with Guilford, Wake and Forsyth placing ninth, 10th and 11th.Anthony Mulvihill, the council's executive director, said the rankings were developed to help pinpoint counties with the severest drug and alcohol abuse problems so that aid and support could be better directed.

He noted that 19 of the 25 counties with the most critical drug and alcohol abuse problems are along the paths of the Interstates 40-85, 95 and U.S. 74.

The council, which made its report to Lt. Gov. Jim Gardner, said that for every dollar the state puts into building and operating new prisons, it should spend an additional dollar on treating, housing and educating victims of alcohol and drug abuse.

The council, based in Durham, is an agency of the United Way in North Carolina that aids in education, information and referral and advocacy concerning alcohol and drug abuse.

If the public's chief concern is the ``death and destruction and human and economic costs, alcohol is No. 1,' the report says. ``Any war on drugs that does not have alcohol as its centerpiece is fundamentally flawed.'

While the general public is cutting its consumption of alcohol and other drugs, the number of people who depend on or abuse drugs or alcohol isn't shrinking. And, he said, while more prison cells might be needed, more prison space won't solve the drug problem.

Gov. Jim Martin has proposed borrowing $490 million to add 9,500 beds to the state's prison system.

``I have nothing against prisons or punishment,' Mulvihill said in the 65-page report to Gardner, chairman of the state's drug cabinet. ``The state may need more prison cells. My point is prisons and punishment alone don't solve anyone's addiction problem.'

The drug cabinet report calls for $70.4 million in additional spending, with $50.7 million from the state. Those involved in abuse treatment have criticized it for stressing law enforcement and punishment and giving too little support to treatment and prevention.

Gardner declined comment on the drug-abuse report Tuesday, saying he hadn't had a chance to review it.

Mulvihill said one of the major problems with drug addicts is they don't recognize that their problem is addiction.

``They think the problem is not having drugs,' he said.

Mulvihill praised the work of the drug cabinet for going beyond ``blowing a lot of smoke' to ``really getting serious' about dealing with drug and alcohol abuse.

His report says 75 percent of the spaces in public and private treatment programs are filled. If the government provided assistance to put more people into such programs - say, filling them to 90 percent of capacity - it would be less expensive than what the drug cabinet has proposed, the report said.

In an interview, however, Mulvihill said he didn't have an estimate of what his proposals would cost.

The report also gives a close look at the extent of alcohol and drug abuse in North Carolina.

Of the total population of 6.6 million, 5.1 million have used alcohol and 566,000, or 11 percent, could be diagnosed as abusers.

Of the 2 million people in the state who have at one time or another used illegal drugs, 72,000, or 3.6 percent, could be considered abusers or drug dependent.

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