The drug addiction pipeline: who supplies drugs to America?
In 2012, around 23.9 million American citizens were consuming illicit drugs or psychotherapeutic medications, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse. How does the number get that large? Over the years, as the drug trade has grown, so has demand. If each addict or recreational substance abuser — at some point — introduces his or her drug of choice to a new drug abuser, then the circle just continues to grow wider. But where does the cycle begin? The answer is with manufacturing.
While many of these substances certainly come from other places, America supplies plenty of its own drug supply, too. Of the drugs that are entering the United States from outside native territories, most are coming from Central and South America. The majority of drugs that come from other nations into the US do so via Mexico.
International drug trade
The heroin supply in America is mainly derived from South America and Mexico. A large portion of the world’s heroin is cultivated in Afghanistan — around 90 percent of it — but only about 4 percent of heroin in the US comes from Afghanistan, per 2013 data reported by The Week. Approximately 4.2 million people over the age of 11 have used heroin in their lifetime, NIDA reports.
Most of America’s cocaine comes from Bolivia, Columbia, and Peru. Among 15-64 year olds in America, Business Insider reports 2.2 percent use cocaine each year.
Up to two-thirds of the marijuana being consumed in America comes from Mexico, Fronteras notes, while domestic growers may be accountable for much of the rest. Production of this drug may only increase in coming years as legalities are stretched thinner. Over the past two years, several states in America have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis, as well as legalized it for medicinal use. In 2013, Uruguay became the first nation to legalize marijuana across the board. Data from 2012 shows that 14.1 percent of all Americans aged 15-64 use marijuana, per Business Insider.
Prescription drugs come from all over the country, but those that are most abused by addicts are, in majority, manufactured in the United States. Those that are made elsewhere are still pretty easy to get your hands on when they’re imported legally for medicinal purposes. Prescription opioid pain relievers are the most widely abused prescribed medicine in existence. Americans consume around 80 percent — or over 110 tons — of all prescription opioid painkillers, per Business Insider. These drugs may very well be the source of the biggest drug epidemic America has faced in a long while.
Benzodiazepines make up another widely abused set of prescription drugs. Often recognized under brand names like Xanax and Klonopin, benzos are highly addictive when used for extended periods of time, and they can be fatal. Of the 41,502 drug overdose deaths that occurred in 2012, 16,007 were caused by opioid pain relievers and 6,524 by benzodiazepines, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Alcohol is somewhat trickier to pin down because manufacturing of it is legal and thus, widespread. While islands in the Caribbean might be responsible for a significant amount of rum that is produced, most vodka comes from Russia, most tequila is produced in Mexico, and a good bit of whiskey comes from right here in the states, but a lot is distilled in the UK, too. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states 87.6 percent of American adults reported lifetime consumption of alcohol in 2012, and 17 million were suffering from alcohol use disorders.
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Elaborating on the topic of disorders, a common concern for Americans is the growing number of people who are struggling with mental illness and how often they overlap with substance abuse. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, over 50 percent of people struggling with substance abuse as well as around one-third of those who suffer from alcoholism have at least one serious mental health disorder.
So we know where these drugs are primarily produced and how they are coming into the US, but just how are they making their way into American homes across the nation? Drug cartels transport to middle men, who disperse to dealers — who sometimes have their own dealers — who pass the supply along to the average American for the right price.
That being said, the drugs that are made right here in the US never have to cross international borders. Marijuana and prescription drugs are among the most used. The former can be easily grown by many in the comfort of their own home or backyard, while the latter often takes nothing more than feigning a few symptoms to get a prescription. American patients regularly report symptoms of issues like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder just to secure a prescription for Adderall. The Huffington Post reports over 18 million of these scripts were written by doctors in 2010.
Today, getting help for substance abuse and co-occurring disorders is easier than ever. Symptoms of addiction generally include:
- A developed tolerance to a substance that requires the user to increase dosage amounts and frequency of dosages to attain the same level high they’ve grown accustomed to
- Withdrawing oneself from social activities and engagements that the user once found enjoyable
- Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when one hasn’t used in a while, or using with the purpose of avoiding withdrawal symptoms
- Having an obsession with making sure one has enough drugs on hand to get by until the next supply is available
- Suffering negative consequences because of drug use, but continuing to use anyway
- An inability to succeed at attempts to cut back or stop using
If any of these signs and symptoms of addiction is present in your life, it’s time to seek the kind of help offered at The Recovery Village. Call us today and begin the journey to sobriety with support and confidence.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.