Current drug and alcohol addiction statistics are startling and frightening. Drug use is starting at younger ages, and the number of those suffering from addiction is increasing. The variety of drugs being experimented with is leading to people being addicted to a plethora of drugs, some of them legal and controlled like alcohol and tobacco, and others illegal. The drug addiction statistics paint a grim picture of drug use in the country today.
Cost of Drug Addiction
The costs associated with drug addiction are astounding. Currently, alcohol abuse is costing the country $30 billion in heath car costs and $235 billion overall. Illicit drug use carries an $11 billion heath care bill and costs $193 billion overall. These costs do not account for the daily cost of addiction for the individual suffering from the disease.
Average Age of Addicts
Every day, 2,500 children between the age of 12 and 17 use prescription painkillers for non-medical uses. In a 2007 survey, 3.3 percent of this age group had abused prescription drugs in the past month. The age at which a person begins using drugs is important because those who start at a younger age have a higher risk of becoming addicted to a substance. Young brains and bodies are also still developing and suffer more detrimental effects from drug use. Of people who started using alcohol before the legal age of 21, the average age of first use was 15.8 years. 85.9 percent of people reported drinking alcohol before reaching legal age. The average age for using inhalants was 17.1 years, marijuana was 17.6 years, cocaine and ecstasy were 20.2 years, and the abuse of pain relievers started at 21.3 years. 56.2 percent of people who engaged in illicit drug use said that marijuana was their first drug and 31 percent used prescription pain killers as their first drug. Often, these gateway drugs led to using more dangerous and addictive drugs later in life.
Drug abuse related deaths have doubled since the 1980’s. It is the leading cause of death from a preventable heath condition with a quarter of deaths related to alcohol, tobacco, or drug use. In 2009 alone, there were 38,329 deaths directly related to drug overdoses, 24,518 related to alcohol, and 22,134 from non-medical use of prescription drugs.
Non-medical Use of Prescription Drugs
In 2006, 2.6 million people in the United States abused prescription drugs for the first time. It caused 22,400 deaths in the United States in 2005 with the most prevalent ones being opioid painkillers that accounted for 38.2 percent of the deaths. Of drug overdoses, prescription drugs are responsible for 45 percent of deaths. Compared to the combined death rate of amphetamine, heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine of 39 percent among drug overdoses, the death rate of prescription drugs is very high.
It is estimated that 150,000 people will try heroin for the first time each year. In 2008, there were an estimated 213,000 current users of heroin. As one of the most highly addictive illicit drugs, a significant percentage of these people will become addicted to the substance. It takes only a few days of injections or a few weeks of smoking the drug to create a physical addiction that will cost about $150 to $200 a day to maintain. About 2 percent of heroin addicts will die from the drug while 50 to 70 percent will suffer from non-fatal overdoses. Frighteningly, the number of children aged 12 to 17 who have tried heroin has increased 300 percent between 1995 and 2002. Heroin is starting to become a more commonly used drug among all age groups, and heroin addiction accounts for 18% of admissions to drug rehab facilities in the United States.
Non-heroin opiates account for 5.9 percent of admissions to substance abuse treatment programs. Americans are the highest users of opioids with only five percent of the world’s population using 80 percent of the supply of opioids. In a 2005 study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Heath, it was found that two million Americans were addicted to opioids. Many of these people start using the drug in high school with one in 12 high school seniors reporting the use of Vicodin for non-medical purposes and one in 20 seniors reporting using OxyCotin.
The line between responsible alcohol use and alcohol abuse is often a difficult one to draw. Over 71.8 percent of men and 59.6 percent of women report drinking at least once per year with 5.78 percent and 2.45 percent of men and women, respectively, reporting drinking on a daily basis. 51 percent of the American population defines themselves as regular consumers of alcohol. The line between use and abuse is defined by someone craving alcohol, a loss of control when drinking, physical dependence, and an increased tolerance to the drug. In a long-term study, nearly 18 percent of the participants were found to have abused alcohol in their lifetime, and 12 percent had indications of suffering from alcoholism with the number of men being higher than women. Alcoholism began at the age of 22 and ended three to four years later, indicating it is a curable addiction.
Alcoholism has one of the highest addiction recovery rates but also sees only a low percentage of people seeking help. 24 percent of the alcoholics in the study received treatment for their addiction but only 7 percent of those who had abused the drug occasionally but were not considered alcoholics received treatment.
Those who begin drinking at a younger age are more likely to suffer from alcoholism than those who wait until after reaching the legal drinking age to use alcohol. Over three million American teenagers have been identified with an alcohol problem, and those who begin drinking before the age of 15 are twice as likely to develop alcoholism later in life.
79,000 deaths are associated with alcohol each year, and over 53 percent of Americans have at least one relative suffering from an alcohol dependency problem. Since drinking is a socially acceptable activity, it is often hard to confront addicts about their problem.
The addiction and death statistics associated with alcohol and illicit drug use are frightening. The younger generation is starting to experiment with drugs at a younger age, and more are becoming addicted than ever before. While some people will realize their addiction problem and seek help from an addiction recovery program, family, and friends, others will continue to suffer from the disease of addiction, and some will pay the ultimate price of death.