Drug Abuse Statistics – Painting A Clear Picture Of The Problem

Substance abuse is something that impacts the lives of many people in this country. In order to properly drive policy towards resolving the issue of drug addiction, various statistics are collected on issues such as age of users, socioeconomic background, relapse rates, education levels, and more.

Research into Drug Addiction and Abuse

When people become addicted to or abuse drugs, it impacts every facet of society. It is believed that around 20% of the entire federal budget is spent on dealing with the consequences of drug abuse. Furthermore, drug users often engage in dangerous and criminal behavior, which means it affects everybody. One organization that aims to lift the veil on the demographics of addiction is the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“Our mission is to advance science on the causes and consequences of drug use and addiction and to apply that knowledge to improve individual and public health.”

Through their findings, a lot of information is now available on drug use, the cost of this, and its impact. This, in turn, has allowed for the development of better policies, prevention programs, and treatment. Let’s take a look at some of the research results they have presented.

The Cost of Substance Abuse

It is estimated that direct health care expenses related to drug abuse in this country amount to $137 billion. If associated costs, such as lost work productivity and crime costs, are added, total expenses reach $600 billion. That equates to 17.1% of the total federal budget.

Alcohol and Drug Trends Across the Country

Between 2002 and 2012, there has been an increase in the number of people who use drugs. In 2002, 13% of Americans over the age of 12 had used some illicit substance in the past month. By 2012, this had climbed to 13.2%, or an extra 4 million people. Mostly, however, this is attributed to a significant increase in marijuana use.

“According to the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2.1 million people in the US abused marijuana for the first time that year. Among 12- to 17-year-olds, 6.7% were current marijuana users in 2007.”

There also seems to have been an increase in people over 50 who use substances (this number has doubled between 2002 and 2012), but there has been a decline in underage youths who drink, as well as a decline in DUIs.

Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics

One of the biggest health problems facing this country is the abuse of prescription drugs.

“6.1 Million people have used them non-medically in the past month. 5 percent of the United States is the world’s population and consumes 75 percent of the the world’s prescription drugs.”

Deaths as a result of prescription drug abuse are more common than deaths from all other illegal substances combined. There has been a near doubling of emergency room visits as a result of prescription drugs as well. It is believed that this will be one of the worst substance abuse problems in this country.

Alcohol Abuse Statistics

Alcohol is, by and large, a legal substance. That being said, it is a drug and it can be abused, so much so, in fact, that alcoholism is one of the most expensive and most common substance abuse disorders in this country. It costs around $223 billion in lost productivity and health care costs. Additionally, it is the third most common preventable cause of death in this country, with around 88,000 people dying of alcohol abuse each year.

Furthermore, it is one of the leading factors of fatalities in motor vehicle accidents. This started in the 1980s, where the statistics showed that 60% of all accidents on the road involved alcohol.

Youth Substance Abuse

While young people continue to use drugs, their numbers are, thankfully, in decline. The exception is marijuana, which young people continue to use. This has been stated in the latest Monitoring the Future report.

“Despite the ongoing opioid overdose epidemic, past-year use of opioids other than heroin has decreased significantly each year over the past 5 years among the nation’s teens. Heroin use has also decreased over the past 5 years and is at the lowest rate since the MTF survey began.”

It also showed that, while most teens do not see marijuana as a harmful substance, they do not agree with regular use of the substance. The decline in the number of young people using drugs is attributed in part to better education, and to less accessibility. That being said, there has not been a decline in prescription drug abuse, with Ritalin being one of the most commonly abused substances.

Substance Abuse Treatment

Statistics on treatment of substance abuse and the mental health consequences in particular are monitored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

“In 2013, an estimated 22.7 million individuals aged 12 or older in 2013 needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem (8.6 percent of the population aged 12 or older). Among the 22.7 million individuals 12 or older who needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem, an estimated 2.5 million received treatment at a specialty facility for an illicit drug or alcohol problem. This means that 20.2 million individuals needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem but did not receive treatment at a specialty facility in the past year.”

Emergency Room Visits

The cost of substance abuse on the healthcare system is tremendous. In 2009, some 4.6 million people visited the emergency room as a result of prescription and drug abuse. Forty-five percent of these visits relate to drug abuse, including illegal use of prescription drugs, using illicit drugs, and using alcohol.

Drug Trends Throughout History

The figh against drugs seems to be making some headway. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, there has been a significant drop in all categories of drug use among teens.

“According to a recent government survey drug use rates have decreased since 2001. Kids are rejecting marijuana, LSD, steroids, ecstasy, methamphetamine, alcohol and tobacco.”

However, this does not mean that young people no longer use drugs. In fact, some suggest that the statistics are skewed, because they were influenced by factors such as the fact that the survey was completed during a time when there was intensified academic competition and over-scheduling.

According to the DEA, however, the proof is also in the fact that there has been a significant decline in DEA arrests, and they believe this to be in correlation to lower drug use. Others, however, feel that there have been new enforcement practices in the DEA, as well as a different budget.

Whether or not drug use is actually dropping among young people or not, it is worrying to see that there has been a negative development in how parents address the issue with their teens. It seems that they now avoid the conversation altogether if they can. This is why the Partnership for a Drug-Free America has released new information on the importance of leaving the lines of communication open.

“Studies which track attitudes toward drugs reveal that one of the most critical influences on kids’ decisions about taking drugs is the input of parents. In fact, kids who say they learn a lot about the risks of drugs at home are up to 50 percent less likely to use drugs.”

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