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.”

How Does Drug & Alcohol Intervention Work?

Interventions have been made popular through Hollywood movies and popular television series. We have all seen the stories whereby substance abusers arrive home and are confronted by their loved ones with individual letters discussing how their substance abuse has impacted their lives. In the movies, they are emotionally overwhelmed by what their loved ones have said and are shown to be off the drugs for the rest of their lives. In reality, however, this isn’t quite how drug and alcohol interventions work.

What Is an Intervention?

If done properly, an intervention is a very powerful tool that can help a substance abuser on the road to recovery. If done incorrectly, however, it could actually make the situation a whole lot worse. But what is an intervention?

“With a superficial glance, an intervention looks like a casual meeting that includes someone that is addicted to a substance and people trying to help that person. Upon closer inspection, an intervention is a formally planned meeting that takes days or weeks of preparation to progress from creation to finalization.”

Preparation is extensive and includes a great deal of research, speaking to professionals, working together with the loved ones of the substance abuser, having treatment ready and waiting, and committing to consequences of the subsequent behavior of the substance abuser.

Important Hints and Tips

Getting an intervention right is absolutely vital to its success. The idea that, once letters have been read out, the addict will suddenly have recovered is completely incorrect, which is why one of the most important things is to have access to treatment available immediately after the intervention. It is also important to get all the details right.

“Don’t schedule an intervention for a time that the addict is likely to be high or stressed. If the addict has to go to work, has recently gone through a breakup, or is otherwise distracted or overwhelmed, he or she will have trouble listening.”

You should also make sure not to shame or yell at them. You must be very specific in terms of how you have been affected by their behavior and make sure you are short and to the point in everything that you say. Perhaps the most important thing, and often the most difficult, is that you stick by what you say. If you impose consequences, you have to actually follow through with those, no matter how hard it would be.

Intervention Models

It is generally recommended to work together with intervention specialists, as they are trained in the different models of intervention.

“There are many different approaches to interventions, and it’s important to choose one that you feel would be most effective for your loved one. A professional interventionist can help you with this process.”

The most common models include the Johnson Model, the Systemic Model, the Invitational Model, and the Field Model. If you do not seek the services of an interventionist, then it is important that you study these models so that you work along the one that you believe is most appropriate for your exact situation.

5 Most Common Co-occurring Disorders With Addiction

It seems as if certain conditions always come hand in hand. For instance, people who are diagnosed with diabetes often also have heart disease. And people who have asthma usually also have allergies. Within the world of addiction, something very similar happens. It is incredibly common for people who abuse a substance to also have a mental health disorder, although it is generally not clear which one came first. Many different combinations of mental health disorders and addictions exist, so let’s take a look at the five most common Co-occurring Disorders.

1. Antisocial Personality Disorder and Alcoholism

People who abuse alcohol often have a number of specific mental health issues, including dementia, mania, drug addiction, and schizophrenia. However, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has reported that the closest link is with Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD).

“As a group, people with ASPD have higher rates of alcohol dependence and more alcohol-related problems than people without ASPD.”

What the studies have shown is that people who abuse alcohol are up to 21 times more likely to also have ASPD when compared to non-alcoholic individuals. According to the NIAAA, both disorders often develop quite early in a person’s life. Furthermore, alcoholism can increase the seriousness of the antisocial behavior, possibly due to alcohol lowering inhibitions, making their symptoms more prominent. Additionally, people with ASPD who consume alcohol are also more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior, particularly when under the influence of alcohol.

2. Schizophrenia and Marijuana Addiction

People who have schizophrenia very commonly develop addictions, often as a type of self-medication to cope with their symptoms. As indicated in the American Journal of Psychiatry, half of all people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia also have a substance abuse problem.

“This patient presents with a ‘dual disorder’, most likely schizophrenia and co-occurring alcohol and cannabis use disorders. This is not an uncommon clinical scenario. The literature suggests that nearly 50% of patients with schizophrenia have a co-occurring substance use disorder, most frequently alcohol and/or cannabis (at a rate about three times as high as that of the general population).”

While alcohol abuse is therefore also common in schizophrenia, the most striking association is with marijuana abuse. It isn’t known why people with schizophrenia are more prone to abuse this kind of drug, even when the effects of marijuana are very close to those experienced during a schizophrenic episode. It is also very important to understand that there is no evidence to suggest marijuana abuse causes schizophrenia. Rather, it is possible that a schizophrenia diagnosis had not been made for that person, or that the substance makes the condition worse.

3. Anxiety Disorders and Cocaine Addiction

Those who have a cocaine addiction often use the drug because it makes them feel powerful and euphoric. However, if use becomes abuse, a lot of symptoms start to appear that would point to anxiety disorders. These include hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia, suspiciousness, and violence. When people achieve long term sobriety, these symptoms generally fade away. However, it is possible for the damage to linger and for people to continue to have unusual behaviors and thoughts, even when they no longer use the substance at all.

4. PTSD and Opioid Addiction

PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health condition that usually occurs after people have gone through a very stressful situation, in which they either watched someone die, or faced death themselves. Survivors of these episodes often have significant physical injuries, as it is particularly common in wounded veterans. To alleviate the pain from these injuries, they are often prescribed very strong, prescription painkillers. Painkillers can make people feel calmer, as well as give them pleasurable feelings. As a result, it is quite common for people with PTSD to start to abuse prescription drugs. Unfortunately, this only makes the psychological injuries worse overtime.

5. Mental Illness and Heroin Addiction

Heroin is a drug that gives people feelings of happiness and euphoria in the short term. When long term use takes place, however, the areas of the brain that produce these feelings of pleasure can be completely burned out. It is possible for brain damage to occur that can lead to depression. This means that people are no longer able to feel any type of happiness, unless they use heroin. This partnership between addiction and mental illness is incredibly common, and it is also one scenario in which it is quite clear that the addiction causes the mental illness. Although brain damage can occur, treatment and sobriety can reverse it, once again enabling people to experience true happiness.

Different Forms Of Substance Abuse Treatment

Every substance abuse case is different. People turn to substances for the first time for different reasons, experience a pathway to addiction in different ways, and have different responses to their addiction. Because of this, there is no one size fits all treatment option that works in all cases either. A number of types of treatments have been developed and have been shown to be successful, however.


It is very common for medication to be used as a form of substance dependency treatment.

“Medications can be used to manage withdrawal symptoms, prevent relapse, and treat co-occurring conditions.”

Medication is usually prescribed in order to help people manage the symptoms of withdrawal. Additionally, it can help to prevent relapse, which is important since relapse rates continue to be very high. Finally, medications can be prescribed to people who have co-occurring conditions, where those who have a substance problem also have a mental health issue, which is quite common. There is not a single medication that treats all these issues, however, which is why it is important to receive proper consultation and support.


Talking therapies have also proven to be very effective in helping people overcome substance abuse. This kind of therapy can be offered in a variety of different ways, and individual therapy is often the most effective of all.

“Depending on client needs, length of treatment, and level of care, sessions with the primary therapist may be initially scheduled once or twice per week. It is during these sessions that the treatment plan is developed with input from the client and multidisciplinary staff.”

Besides individual therapy, group therapy is also very effective. Here, people at different stages of recovery can communicate together, under the guidance of a therapist. Family therapy is also common, as it ensures that people are better able to support their recovering loved ones, while at the same time ensuring that substance abusers gain an understanding of the impact of their behavior on the family unit. Other forms of therapy, which are currently experimental, include recovery-oriented challenge therapy, expressive therapies, and trauma therapy.

Peer Support

Technically a form of therapy, offering peer support has also been shown to be very beneficial.

“Peers are individuals in recovery who can use their own experiences to help others working towards recovery. Peer supports are a critical component of the substance use disorder treatment system. Many people who work in the treatment system as counselors or case managers are in recovery, and peers are central to many recovery support efforts.”

Treatment is generally offered on an inpatient, residential basis, or as an outpatient. Often, people start with residential treatment, move on to supported housing, and, finally, to outpatient treatment. During treatment, skills development is also often offered.

“Coping skills training groups (the most common type of skills development group) attempt to cultivate the skills people need to achieve and maintain abstinence.”

Put together, these different types of treatment increase the chances of people beating their addiction and remaining abstinent in the future.

Will I always be an addict?

Addicted to drugs

When we talk about addiction, many questions come to mind. Whether if it’s a disease and if there is cure for it, some people think that there is no cure for it. While others don’t consider it a disease at all, many people always argue whether addiction is a choice or not. Some theorists think that it is a genetic defect, which can be passed from generation to generation.

While there are many debates surrounding drug and alcohol addiction, people who have experienced this problem may have the best insight or answers into what addiction truly is. They know if ever you can truly get away from substance addiction.

The stigma of being an addict is what forces people to hide their problems from the world. No one wants to admit that they have drug addiction problems and be labeled as addict; but, it really does feel better once you have accepted it and decided to get help.

In addiction rehab centers, Rehab staff will wholeheartedly help you fight and overcome your drug and alcohol addiction. In this place, you are in an environment that provides safety, care, and nurturing.

These centers will teach you have to make drastic changes in your lifestyle before you go back home. If you’re friends are still using drugs and alcohol, you’ll have to realize that you must stop hanging out with them in order to stay sober. This could be tough if you don’t have a lot of sober friends, but if you really want to overcome your addiction: you will follow through with your addiction treatment plan.

Always pay attention to your environment. Once you get out, you’ll be surprise on how much your surroundings influence your recovery. You’ll find out that going to parties can trigger your drug addiction or spending too much time with drug-junkie friends may be too much temptation.

When it comes to addiction you must always be mindful of letting your guard down. When we think about addiction, it is something that we always have to keep in mind. This problem can only be successfully contained if you are willing to dig deep and do the work.

So if you’re asking, will I always be an addict? Well, people say that once you recover, you will always be a recovering addict, but the choice is always up to you.