Substance Abuse Problem in 2019


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There are outstanding numbers of people seeking treatment for a substance abuse problem. The use of opioids and alcohol has been the subject of a heated debate for the last 2 to 3 years. But, this problem is deeper and broader than it might seem. Currently, more than 22 million people are struggling with a substance abuse problem in the U.S. At any time, about 4.5 million people suffer from a substance use disorder as a result of abusing prescription drugs or illicit drugs.

In addition to affecting individuals directly, the problem affects the larger population’s segments indirectly. These segments include those of the individuals involved in controlling the problem in the legal and social sectors. There are also staggering effects of the substance abuse problem on the public health sector.

Today, more and more people are calling alcoholism hotline numbers seeking professional assistance. This move is proving to be a lifeline for the individuals caught up in this crisis. Calling this toll-free number provides the initial intervention for getting a person with drug abuse or drinking problem on their journey to recovery. The lines are manned by helpful and compassionate representatives. These provide crucial information on the available treatment options and resources for individuals with a substance abuse problem.

Statistics on Substance Abuse

Substance abuse can be defined as a set of conditions associated with the use of behavior- and mind-altering substances with negative health and behavioral outcomes. Legal and political responses, as well as social attitudes to the use of illicit drugs and alcohol, make substance abuse a complex issue in the public health sector.

Nevertheless, people continue to suffer substance abuse problems. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that in 2017, about 19.7 million adults in America struggled with substance use disorder. Almost 74 percent of adults with a substance use disorder had an alcohol use disorder in the same year. Approximately 38 percent of adults struggled with illicit drug abuse disorder in 2017.

One out of eight adults battled both drug use and alcohol use disorders simultaneously in the same year. America had 8.5 million adults with a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder or simply co-occurring disorders in 2017. American society spends over $740 billion annually on substance abuse and addiction in terms of healthcare expenses, crime-related costs, and lost productivity at workplaces.

Effects of the Substance Abuse Problem

Although more people are calling alcohol hotline numbers seeking assistance, more individuals are still succumbing to the effects of the abused substances. For instance, more than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2017. This number was double the number of individuals that died from drug overdoses in ten years.

Drug abuse has equally troubling consequences on the mental and general health of individuals. For instance, most people with a substance use disorder have a co-occurring mental health issue. That means their families and immediate communities have to deal with the impacts of the substance abuse problem too.

The effects of substance abuse problems on the economy are stunning. Estimates show that the annual lost productivity, healthcare, and crime-related costs of alcohol, prescription opioids, and illicit drug abuse amount to more than $500.

Illicit drugs have a thriving economy. Estimates show that Americans spend around $100 billion on marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine every year. The primary beneficiaries of the thriving American market for opioids are the Mexican cartels. These cartels can buy 1kg of cocaine at $2,000 in Colombia. On moving it to Mexico, they can sell the same kilo at $10,000. If they move it to the U.S, they can sell it at $30,000. On breaking it down to grams for sale in the streets, the same one kilo can net $100,000.

Actions Taken to Solve the Substance Abuse Problem

 In addition to establishing drugs and alcohol hotline numbers, the U.S society has been fighting drugs through the criminal justice system. The country has spent about $1 trillion on the war against drugs. About 45 million drug arrests have been made. 84% of the arrests made for violation of the drug law are for possession. Today, almost a third of inmates are incarcerated for drug offenses.

The criminal justice system has been the go-to solution to this problem. The goal has been to minimize the number of drugs that cross the borders as well as limiting their distribution, sale, and possession. Different local, state, and federal intelligence gathering and law enforcement agencies have been involved in this effort.

Misplaced Priorities

After considering the U.S drug policy, it’s easy to conclude that the problem is the presence of many drugs in the country. This explains why the U.S has focused on imposing opioid prescriptions’ restrictions and the criminal justice system’s response in the attempt to solve the substance abuse problem. But, the fact is that this has not been fully effective. After making prescription opioids difficult to obtain, people have migrated to synthetic opioids and heroin. These are largely the cause of overdose deaths.

A better approach, therefore, would be acceptance by policymakers that substance abuse and addiction are medical disorders. Research has shown that addiction is a treatable disease and not a moral failing. Just like incarcerating a person with cancer or diabetes would be treated as medical malpractice, imprisoning an individual with a substance abuse problem should receive the same treatment.

More drugs and alcohol addiction hotline numbers should be set up to make information on substance abuse problems readily available. This is particularly important considering that only a small fraction of individuals struggling with substance use disorders get treatment. This can be attributed to the inadequate public health system that lacks funding and capacity to provide effective treatment to people with the substance abuse problem.

The Bottom Line

The substance abuse problem is deeper and broader than it might seem. Response by the criminal justice system has proven ineffective. A better approach would be for policymakers to keep personal opinions and politics aside and help the public health sector deal with the problem. That’s because addiction is a disease. Solving this problem, therefore, requires allocating more resources to the public health sector, boosting its capacity, and setting up more drug addicts and alcoholics hotline numbers.