Addiction is the biggest and most common concern in America today. A recent study found that 40 million Americans met the definition of an addict. That number is higher than the number of people with cancer and heart disease, the top two leading causes of death. Drug and alcohol dependence puts a huge strain on American society because of its costs and consequences.
In part one of this series, we're going to take a look at the problem.
Addiction is a complex disorder of the brain that causes a person to compulsively seek and use drugs or alcohol despite its damaging consequences. It causes chemical changes in the brain that interfere with a person’s ability to make good judgment calls. It’s accompanied by a physical dependence that will cause withdrawal symptoms if addicts do not continue to take their substance of choice. It’s considered a chronic disease that one must deal with for the rest of his or her life.
The National Survey on Drug Use reports some shocking statistics on drug and alcohol use among Americans. It found that:
- 22.6 million people over age 12 are current or former drug users.
- 20.2 million people over 18 years of age use illegal drugs.
- 1.5 million people use cocaine.
- 1.2 million people use hallucinogens.
- 7 million people take prescription medicines for recreation.
- 58.6 million people participate in binge drinking (five or more drinks on the same occasion).
- 10 million people ages 12 to 20 drink alcohol.
The drug most commonly used is marijuana, but abuse of prescription drugs is on the rise. Reports have noted that 20 percent of people have used them for recreational purposes. Prescription opiates such as oxycodone and vicodin are the most popular. In 2013, there were about 7,800 new drugs users per day with over 54 percent under the age of 18. More than half start with marijuana and then move on to prescription drugs. People in their late teens and early twenties use drugs more often than other age groups, although drug use among people in their 50s and 60s is increasing.
The statistics show that addiction is a major problem in America. Its impact isn’t felt by just one group of people, either. It affects both genders, all ages, and every race. It doesn’t matter how much money you make or what kind of education you have. Addiction can take over anyone’s life.
Unfortunately, many drug addicts and alcoholics aren’t getting the help they need. Addiction to drugs and alcohol is a disease that needs treatment, but only one in 10 people in America is able to get help. In 2013, an estimated 22.7 million Americans needed treatment but only 9 percent where able to enroll in programs.
Many Americans aren’t able to afford treatment because they do not have insurance, or their insurance doesn’t cover it. Publicly funded programs are often not able to meet the demands. Even though addiction costs the U.S. over $467 million, according to a 2005 study, only 1.9 cents on the dollar went to prevention and treatment. Many of those services are short-term, so addicts don’t have enough time to recover fully, and therefore end up relapsing.
In part two of this series, we will look at the impact of addiction in America.
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