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Current Chemical Dependency Trends

The Facts About Drug and Alcohol Addiction in the U.S.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) regularly publishes statistics from numerous credible sources regarding drug and alcohol addiction. A word to the wise; while some statistics indicate improvement in certain addictions, the overall picture provides compelling evidence that the United States has a severe substance abuse and untreated addiction problem.

Perhaps the most telling statistic of all comes from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The survey included results from more than 65,000 non-institutionalized persons of both sexes aged 12 and higher. The survey confirms that illicit drug use in 2009 reached its highest peak since the previous record established in 2002.

Researchers concluded that 22.6 million Americans, aged 12 or older, reported using illicit drugs in the 30 days prior to the survey. The survey results were published in 2011. Even more shocking is that of the more than 20 million alcohol and drug addicted sufferers in the US, a mere 11.2 percent were engaged in treatment therapy for their addiction.

The Cost of Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Based on findings from an independent NIDA survey released in 2012, abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs drained the US economy of more than $600 billion in the 12 months preceding the survey; by any count a staggering figure. These costs came from a number of sources, including emergency room visits, legal damages, lawsuits, prevention and treatment programs, lost time and lost employment.

Abuse of tobacco cost the health care industry $96 billion. The overall cost of tobacco abuse cost $193 billion annually. Tobacco abuse receives great fanfare, but the costs of tobacco abuse pale in comparison to the cost of alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse costs the healthcare system about $30 billion annually. However, the overall cost including alcohol related damages, injuries and court costs totals more than $235 billion per year. Illicit drug abuse costs the healthcare system about $11 billion yearly and more than $193 billion in overall costs every year.

Substantially reducing these addictions would go a long way toward reducing the cost of healthcare in the US today.

Prescription Drug Abuse in the USA

Prescription drug abuse is a modern day crisis. NIDA reports that the United States comprises just 5 percent of the global population but consumes 75 percent of the world’s prescription drugs. Prescription drug abuse occurs at all levels of society and across all age groups.

In 2011, 52 million Americans aged 12 or older had used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons in their lifetime. Illegal prescription drugs are procured through theft, false prescriptions and on the black market, a large and profitable industry.

Prescription drugs are most popular with children and young adults. They are accessible in most home medicine cabinets, can be hidden more easily than illicit drugs and can help to create the euphoric rush that leads to addiction.

In the NIDA survey released in 2011, painkillers were the most abused drug.

  • Prescription Painkiller Abusers (Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycodone, etc.) - 5.1 million Americans
  • Prescription Tranquilizer Abusers (Xanax, Valium, Ativan, etc.) - 2.2 million Americans
  • Prescription Stimulant Abusers (Adderall, Ritalin, etc.) - 1.1 million Americans

Prescription drug addiction is relatively easy to disguise and supplies are plentiful, but these powerful drugs are highly addictive for persons, including seniors, of all ages. Treatment for prescription drug addiction is another life-altering and all-consuming therapy, just as invasive as alcohol or illicit drug addiction.

The Marijuana Controversy

New laws legalizing the use of recreational marijuana in certain states will have an impact on society. Not surprisingly, the National Institute on Health (NIH) reported on December 18, 2013, that the percentage of high school students who associate marijuana use with great risk has declined significantly over the last ten years.

NIH's annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey concentrates on drug use and attitudes among 8th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade students in the US.

Some MTF findings include:

  • Only 39.5 percent of 12th grade students believe regular use of marijuana is harmful.
  • 23 percent of 12th grade students smoked marijuana within the 30 days preceding the survey.
  • 36 percent of high school seniors smoked marijuana in the last 12 months.
  • 4 percent of American 10th grade students smoke marijuana daily.
  • 18 percent of high school sophomores smoked marijuana in the last 30 days.
  • 12 percent of 8th graders smoked marijuana in the last 12 months.
  • 4 percent of high school seniors used Ecstasy in the last year.
  • 2.6 percent of high school seniors used cocaine in the last year.
  • In 1999, 6.2 percent of 12th graders had used cocaine in the previous 12 months.
  • 0.6 percent of seniors had used heroin in the previous 12 months.

Trends from the 2010 NIDA Survey

The 2010 NIDA survey was released in September 2011 and republished on June 1, 2012. The survey included data from two years. The trends in the survey are interesting.

  • At the time, marijuana was the major driver of illicit drug abuse. Use of marijuana in the 30 days preceding the poll increased from 6.1 percent in 2008 to 6.9 percent in 2010, about 17.4 million Americans. While several areas of illicit drug use decreased in the two-year span, the increase in illicit marijuana use pushed illicit drug abuse higher in the US.
  • The use of cocaine turned down from a high of 0.7 percent of the population in 2008 to 0.6 percent in 2010.
  • In 2010, the highest number of illicit drug abusers fell into the age bracket of 18 to 25 (21.5 percent).
  • Seniors, aged 65 and over, had the lowest incidence of drug abuse (1.1 percent).
  • Illicit drug use was more dominant in unemployed Americans than in employed Americans, aged 18 and older (17.5 percent).
  • 4.5 million unemployed Americans smoked marijuana regularly.
  • 1.5 million unemployed Americans abused prescription painkillers.
  • One million unemployed Americans used cocaine regularly.
  • These numbers highlight a flaw in American society. Drug and alcohol addiction can be prevented and can be treated. In both of these scenarios, education is the key. When employers, communities and schools come together and promote effective anti-drug and alcohol abuse programs, positive results invariably follow.

    The United States economy, the healthcare system and the average taxpayer is nearing the breaking point on this national epidemic. The time for action is now.

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