Substance Abuse Facts

Statistically speaking, substance abuse disorders are among the most destructive epidemics facing American society by and large. It affects everyone regardless of age, race, gender, sexuality, or socioeconomic status. Someone living in poverty with an addiction to crystal meth or heroin is just as likely as a white-collar businessman with a proclivity for cocaine or amphetamines. Two vastly differing backgrounds, the same overarching problem. Truly, no matter where someone comes from, they are likely to come into contact with substances at some point or another, illegal or otherwise.

The proliferation of substances across the various lines of society is no coincidence. Like the true manipulators that they are, drugs have crept out of the darkest, furthest corners of civilization to seize whatever opportunity they are given. Wars have been fought in the past because of opium. Morphine cured wartime wounds but led to debilitating addictions. Crack cocaine decimated the inner cities of the United States. Bath salts created a flash-in-the-pan frenzy unlike any drug in the last few decades. And, now, the opioids begin their malicious reign. These drugs have made a name for themselves as the premier medical painkiller, all while laying the groundwork for cheaper and deadlier offshoots such as heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil. The latter of which is an elephant tranquilizer that, despite this, is still injected into the human body. Look no further for a truly eye-opening substance abuse fact if there ever was one.

The next few years are likely to yield new and more disturbing statistics no thanks to these horrendous opioid substances. Fentanyl and carfentanil are both experiencing usage increases of several hundred percent year over year, with no signs of slowing. Morgues across the U.S. cannot keep up with the number of overdose victims coming in. Many are even resorting to implementing mobile units which, until recent circumstances dictated, were reserved exclusively for natural disasters. Drug overdose fatalities passed 64,000 in 2016 alone because of the rise of opioids.

Substance Abuse Statistics | Substance Abuse Facts
Substance abuse facts help put things into perspective. After all, if the issues are affecting so many, it becomes clear that substance abuse is as much a systematic problem as a personal one that should be dealt with in isolation. These numbers could one day represent a friend or family member if that isn’t (unfortunately) the case already.

A key background fact that will set the stage for the remainder of the discussion: substances have an undeniable ability to alter the brain’s chemistry. What starts off as a prescription or recreational use can escalate into a dependence and, eventually, a long-term addiction. Because of this, the medical community classifies addiction as a disease. The “choice” narrative is neither factual nor appropriate any longer.

When substance abuse and its outcomes are considered a disease, it becomes something we as a society can combat together. Whether we want to believe it or not, it is a problem affecting everyone. From a taxpayer’s perspective, hundreds of billions of dollars are spent on crime prevention and treating medical emergencies from drug, alcohol, and tobacco use. Preventative measures and education are just the beginning steps to reducing this astronomical cost. To reiterate, everyone is affected, but everyone can ultimately benefit from dealing with the situation before it turns into a full-fledged crisis.

One substance causes the most destruction of them all. Billions are spent cleaning up its mess. Upward of 480,000 people lost their lives to it in 2016. No, it’s not methamphetamine or opioids. It’s not even alcohol — which actually claimed 88,000 lives that year. Tobacco products result in the deadliest and costliest substance abuse problem crippling this country. Over 15 percent of the United States population smokes cigarettes. This figure comes out to approximately 36.5 million people, which far exceeds the 28 million individuals who use all illicit drugs combined.

Overdose deaths are rising in every state. This is by no means an isolated problem. In fact, the number of overdoses has tripled since the year 2000. Plus, substances aren’t just taking lives away, they are putting them away, too. Researchers estimate that nearly 500,000 people are currently behind bars due to drug-related offenses. Substances create a revolving-door type scenario when it comes to prison. An individual enters incarceration, either for using, possessing, or selling a controlled substance and is met with lacking rehabilitation efforts. When they go back into society, they are still without the necessary life skills they needed, and thus resort to the environments and habits that put them in jail in the first place. Recidivism is a major concern for those who use substances.

Perhaps the top substance abuse fact that should never be forgotten: recovery is possible. For all the horror stories and grim statistics, there are powerful anecdotes of life-changing transformations. The process will likely not be easy, especially at first, but it offers an alternate path for anyone willing to take the first step. Statistics are a measurement of past behavior — one’s future doesn’t have to be another tally mark.


Substance Abuse Statistics | Substance Abuse Facts
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