How Big Is The Substance Abuse Problem?

February 1, 2019 11:00 am - Published by

In the United States, 40 million Americans over the age of 12 abuse alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs. In fact, many suffer from addiction to all three. This year alone, 22 million people will seek drug rehab and substance abuse treatment. Unfortunately, only 2.3 million will get it.

Overall, the estimated cost of drug abuse in the United States—including illegal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco—is more than $820 billion a year and growing. Substance abuse in the U.S. costs society increased healthcare costs, increased crime, and lost productivity. Law enforcement alone spends $50 billion a year fighting crime related to the substance abuse epidemic. Americans spend $35 billion a year on substance use disorder treatment. To make matters worse, since 1982 the cost of purchasing heroin has gone down every year. So, while the monetary cost of fighting this national epidemic continues to rise, the financial cost to substance abusers continues to decline.

Of the 40 million people who currently have substance abuse issues in the U.S., severity can range from mild to severe to life-threatening. Mild cases would be considered as having two or three symptoms of addiction. While severe cases involve serious consequences like car accidents, overdoses, crime, violence, and suicide. Substance use disorder, addiction, and alcoholism are a progressive illness. What you can be sure of is, left untreated, substance abuse and addiction only get worse year after year, IF you survive.

Take alcohol for example. Most people don’t consider it a drug. It’s commonly and frequently used. People use it and believe it has no effect on their health. However, alcohol is the second most abused drug in the history of man. Alcohol kills 80,000 Americans every year. That’s more than opiates/opioids, more than diabetes, and more than heart disease.

Alcohol’s effects on the body are slow to start but affect the major organs including the liver, heart, cardiovascular system, the brain, and the esophagus just to mention a few. People who die from alcoholism die a slow and excruciatingly painful death. The good news is that whenever you stop drinking, no matter how mild or severe your case, your health will almost always improve along with your life expectancy.

Between illness, injury, death, lives destroyed, and money lost, addiction is a huge problem. This doesn’t even factor in things like the spread of HIV, Hep C, unwanted pregnancy, domestic abuse, divorce, and homelessness. Besides the effects on an individual, along with their family and friends, society as a whole suffers a great deal.