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Drug Abuse in America – Costly Unchecked Epidemic

One drug abuse definition is a pattern of over-using any mood altering chemical. Abusing drugs becomes an addiction when the user’s life is focused on this abnormal behavior of drug seeking and use. Drug addiction is defined by the need for increasing amounts of the substance to reach the same level of euphoria and that they suffer certain withdrawal symptoms when they stop using them.

Drug abuse can alter how a person thinks and their judgment. It can also lead to health risks such as addiction, drugged driving and infectious disease. For women that are pregnant, drugs can harm an unborn child and cause pregnancy-related issues. According to doctors the emotional and physical responses to drugs will vary depending on the individual and the substance they used.

  • Drug misuse cost the U.S. more than $484 billion per year.

This includes health care expenditures, lost earnings, and costs associated with crime and accidents. This is an enormous burden that affects all of society. Directly or indirectly, every family and community is affected by drug misuse.

Many of America’s top social economical and heath problems relate directly to addiction. Almost everyone knows someone who is affected by it. Addiction shares many features with other chronic illnesses, including a tendency to run in families. It is influenced by environmental conditions.  Heart disease, cancers, diabetes, and addiction are complex diseases. Addiction changes brain chemistry. An addict has lost their ability to choose to use or not.

Consequences of substance abuse can include illness, injuries and death. Each year approximately 40 million debilitating illnesses or injuries occur among Americans as the result of their use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs.

Addiction costs America billions of dollars in lost wages, health problems, crime, violence, injuries. Almost everyone knows someone struggling with some sort of a substance abuse issue. Drug abuse and addiction have reached epidemic proportions. Drug abuse costs the U. S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars in health care costs, crime, crime, incarceration and drug enforcement, lost wages and productivity. The total costs of drug abuse and addiction illicit drug use costs for $181 billion in health care, lost productivity.

Nearly 24 million Americans aged 12 or older, almost 10 percent of that population used an illicit drug or medication in the past month. That number increased over 2% in the past 10 years. It is primarily due to the rise in marijuana use.

Statistics in the US

Here are some of the most recent drug abuse statistics for the United States. According the the National Institute of Drug Abuse;

  • 10.2% of people, aged 12 and over, have used an illegal drug within the past month
  • Approximately 20.6 million people in the US aged 12 and above struggle with drug addiction
  • Over 90% of the addicted began drinking, using illicit drugs or smoking before they were 18
  • An estimated 7.9 million of those with an addiction have a mental illness
  • Males drink more heavily than females, consuming greater than twice as much alcohol per year
  • Smoking-related illness in the United States costs more than $300 billion each year
  • 23.9 Million Americans Used Illegal Drugs Last Month
  • 14 Million Americans Use Marijuana on a Regular Basis
  • 6.2 Million Americans Abused Prescription Drugs Last Month
  • 3.5 Million Americans Used Cocaine Last Year
  • 1.5 Million Americans Use Heroin Regularly

Drug abuse impacts the individual, their family, and their community. Everybody knows someone who is affected by it. Adolescence is a time period of high vulnerability to using and other risk taking behaviors. People with mental illness are particularly at risk.

Many of America’s top social economical and heath problems relate directly to drug abuse. Families are destroyed by substance misuse and addiction. Everybody knows someone who is affected by it. It is a major public health problem impacting society on multiple levels. Addiction impacts the individual, family, and community. Families are destroyed by it every day.

The exact cause of drug abuse and dependence is not known. However, a person’s genes, the action of the drug, peer pressure, emotional distress, anxiety, depression, and environmental stress all can be factors. Drug abuse is a serious public health problem that affects almost every community and family in some way. Each year drug abuse results in around 40 million serious illnesses or injuries among people in the United States. Abused drugs include:

  • Amphetamines
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Club drugs
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Inhalants
  • Marijuana
  • Prescription drugs

It also plays a role in many major social problems, such as drugged driving, violence, stress and child abuse. Drug abuse can lead to homelessness, crime and missed work or problems with keeping a job. It harms unborn babies and destroys families. There are different types of treatment for drug abuse. But the best is to prevent drug abuse in the first place.

  • Drugging and Driving: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drugs are used by approximately 10 to 22 percent of drivers involved in crashes, often in combination with alcohol.
  • Violence: At least half of the individuals arrested for major crimes including homicide, theft, and assault were under the influence of illicit drugs around the time of their arrest.
  • Stress: Exposure to stress is one of the most powerful triggers of substance abuse in vulnerable individuals and of relapse in former addicts.
  • Child Abuse: At least two-thirds of patients in drug abuse treatment centers say they were physically or sexually abused as children.

There are many drugs out there, but below is a list of the most commonly used drugs;

  • Tobacco
  • Alcohol
  • Cannabinoids
  • Opioids
  • Stimulants
  • Club drugs

Each of the drugs listed above has a variety of negative effects on the physical body. Take a look at each one listed to learn how it adversely impacts a person’s health.


Nicotine is found in cigarettes, cigars, snuff, chew among others. Usage of tobacco can increase the risk of many types of cancer like cancer. Studies have discovered that there is a direct link between the usage of tobacco and coronary heart disease. For pregnant women, smoking can increase the risk of developing pregnancy complications.


Alcohol is classified as a drug (depressant) and is the most abused drug. People drink alcohol to celebrate, socialize and relax. The effects of alcohol will vary from one person to another, depending on how much they drink, how often they drink, their age and their health status. Alcohol can cause the user to lose coordination, have impaired judgment, slurred speech in the short run. In the long run it can cause depression, liver and heart disease, addiction and it can be fatal.


They include marijuana and hashish. They can either be swallowed or smokes. Some of the effects include euphoria. Slow reaction time, impaired balance and coordination, increases heart rate and appetite, panic attacks among others. The health risks associated with cannabinoids include coughing, frequent respiratory infections, a decline in mental health and addiction.


Opioids under this category include Heroin and Opium. They can be injected, smoked or snorted. Some of the acute effects felt include drowsiness, impaired coordination, dizziness, arrested breathing among others. The health risk includes constipation, endocarditis and an overdose can lead to fatality of the user.


Substances under this name include cocaine, amphetamine and methamphetamine. They are snorted, smoked or injected into the blood stream. They are known to cause increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, feelings of exhilaration, reduced appetite, paranoia, psychosis among others. The health risks include weight loss, cardiovascular complications, stroke, seizures and addiction. Nasal damage from snorting and methamphetamine is known to cause severe dental problems.


Ecstasy is swallowed, snorted or injected. In the short run it can cause, impaired judgment, sleep problems, paranoia, blurred vision and depression. In the long run it has been known to cause brain damage that affects thinking and memory, degenerated nerve branches, kidney failure, death among other effects.


Addiction is a chronic, relapsing, fatal disease. Evidence from adoption and twin studies demonstrate that addiction, like other chronic diseases, is hereditary and that genes play a role in vulnerability. Genes can also play a role in protecting individuals from addiction. As with all complex diseases, environmental risk and protective factors interact with genetics to determine the course and outcome.


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