The disease of addiction is a major and continuing problem in the United States. Over 23 MILLION Americans age 12 or older struggle with a substance abuse disorder involving alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription medications. Many millions MORE are affected by the disease – spouses, partners, children, other family members, close friends, neighbors, and even coworkers.
It is no exaggeration to say that EVERYBODY knows SOMEBODY with an addictive disorder. But even though substance abuse touches so many of us, how much do you REALLY know about the disease?
Here are some surprising statistics that may challenge what you think you know about addiction.
Addiction Fact #1 – Addiction’s Financial Costs Are Enormous
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the financial costs of substance abuse are staggering – over $600 BILLION annually, in terms of healthcare, crime, incarceration, and lost productivity.
Addiction Fact #2 – Addiction Treatment Is Surprisingly Cost-Effective
The NIDA also reports that investing in substance abuse treatment programs is the best way to cut those costs. Consider the following:
- Long-term aftercare programs for people in recovery from heroin addiction cost about $4700 a year per patient, while incarcerating a prisoner for a year can cost nearly $60,000.
- Every dollar spent on addiction recovery program results in savings of up to $7, in terms of reduced crime and judicial costs.
- When you factor in healthcare, the savings-to-costs ratio becomes 12 to 1.
Addiction Fact #3 – Addiction is Even MORE Dangerous for Young People
Substance abuse poses a particular hazard to adolescents and teenagers, because their brains are still developing. Consider this information from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence – the use of alcohol and drugs is:
- The leading cause of youth crime.
- The leading factor in youth suicide.
- A problematic behavior – 1 out of every 5 students 12-17 whose average grades are “D” or lower have used marijuana within the past month.
- A predictor of future problems – youths who started drinking before the age of 15 are 5 TIMES MORE LIKELY to abuse or become dependent on alcohol than those who waited until they were 21.
Addiction Fact #4 – Alcohol is the Most/Abused Substance
More than half of all US adults have a family history of alcohol abuse. Over 7 MILLION American children live in a household where at least one parent has a drinking problem. Other statistics about the consequences of alcohol abuse include:
- Alcohol Use Disorders (AUDs) are the 3rd-leading behavior/lifestyle-related cause of death in America.
- Every year in America, alcohol abuse results in 2.5 MILLION years of potential life lost.
- Alcohol contributes to over 200 diseases and health conditions.
Addiction Fact #5 – Women Are at Increased Risk of Opioid Addiction
The American Society of Addiction Medicine reports that compared to men, women are more likely to:
- Have chronic pain
- Be prescribed opioid painkillers
- Be given higher doses
- Use opioids for a longer period of time
- Become dependent more quickly
Because of this, prescription opioid overdose deaths among women are increasing. From 1999 to 2010:
- 48,000 American women died because of prescription opioid overdoses
- That is a 400% increase, compared to 237% for men
Addiction Fact #6 – Most People Who Abuse Alcohol or Drugs Are Gainfully Employed
The old stereotype of a drug abuser being unemployed and homeless isn’t very accurate. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 75% of people with drinking or drug problems are employed.
What does this tell us? It means that ANYONE can struggle with addiction, at any income level or position in life.
Addiction Fact #7 – Addiction and Mental Illness Often Happen at the Same Time
The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that people with substance abuse disorders also frequently struggle with mental illness, and vice versa:
- Almost 30% of people with a mental illness also have a substance abuse problem.
- Just over 36% of individuals with an Alcohol Use Disorder have a mental illness.
- The rate is higher for those with Substance Use Disorders – 53.1%.
- People who are addicted to drugs have a DOUBLED risk of depression.
- 1 out of 3 substance abusers struggle with clinical anxiety.
- Bipolar disorder patients are 5X more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs.
- Schizophrenics are 4X more likely.
- Substance abuse DOUBLES the risk of dementia.
- 40% of female alcoholics have an eating disorder.
Addiction Fact #8—Addiction can Destroy Your Physical Health
Usually, when people think of the physical dangers of substance abuse, they think of overdose. But excessive alcohol or drug consumption can also contribute to the development of or worsening of many other health conditions, including:
- Heart Disease – Cocaine has been called “perfect heart attack drug” by the American Heart Association.
- Hypertension – 20% of hypertension cases are due to alcohol consumption.
- Arthritis – Heavy use of either alcohol or marijuana contributes to bone loss.
- Diabetes – Many alcoholics suffer from pancreatitis, and one-third of those will develop Type II diabetes.
- Cancer – 1 in 30 cancer deaths can be linked to alcohol consumption.
Addiction Fact #9 – YOUR Substance Abuse Hurts Your Children
Far too often, the children of substance abusers are forgotten as victims of the disease:
- 12% of American children under the age of 18 live with a parent who has abused/been dependent upon alcohol or drugs within the past year.
- Approximately 10% of all births – more than 400,000 infants – are exposed to alcohol and/or drugs prenatally.
- In some states, parental substance abuse accounted for more than 60% of children removed from their homes and placed in foster care system.
- 82% of the time, the children of parents who drink will themselves become drinkers.
- Per the National Council on Child Abuse and Family Violence, children with parents who are substance abusers are 3 times as likely to be abused and 4 times as likely to be neglected as other children.
- Two-thirds of people in drug treatment were abused or neglected as children.
Addiction Fact #10 – Addiction Is Incurable, but Treatable
Contrary to popular opinion, addiction can NEVER be cured – it is a lifelong, chronic disease like diabetes, asthma, or hypertension. But just like those other conditions, the symptoms of addiction CAN be managed.
With timely intervention and proper professional treatment, it is possible to arrest addiction’s progress in return to a sober, stable, and healthy life.
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