SUBSTANCE ABUSE FACTS
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Substance Abuse Facts
Substance abuse is a pandemic in the United States. From the abuse of seemingly innocent substances such as marijuana and alcohol to the abuse of street drugs like cocaine and heroin, substance abuse costs individuals substantially, and it costs the nation as a whole. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
- Illicit drug use costs the United States approximately $181 billion annually.
- Excessive alcohol use costs the country approximately $235 billion annually.
It’s not surprising that substance abuse comes with such a high price tag when you consider all the health, legal, criminal, and personal issues that often come in its wake.
In 2012, nearly 24 million Americans, age 12 and older, had abused an illicit drug, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Marijuana is still the most frequently abused drug, with more than 20 million Americans citing use of marijuana within the prior 30 days, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), and more than 8 million people admitting to using marijuana on a near daily basis.
Prescription Drug Abuse
While various street drugs are known to be dangerous, such as heroin and crystal meth, prescription drugs are often viewed in a more favorable light, due to their status as being doctor-prescribed. Though many believe these drugs are “safer” as a result, they can be as addictive as heroin.
Today, prescription drugs are abused more often than illicit drugs are, illustrating the prevalence of this issue.
In 2010, opiate painkillers, such as morphine, OxyContin, and Vicodin, were tied to almost 60% of drug overdose deaths.
Short- and Long-Term Effects of Substance Abuse
Drugs work by stimulating various parts of the human body, including certain areas of the brain. The many different types and classifications of drugs produce a variety of short-term effects, but the most common ones include increased heart rate, high blood pressure, dizziness, tremors, mood changes and paranoia. In high dosages, the risk for more dangerous effects increases, and the potential for heart attack, stroke, respiratory failure and coma increase.
In the long-term, substance abuse may lead to mental and physical effects that will require treatment to resolve. These effects can include:
- Immune deficiencies.
- Organ damage.
Dependence, Abuse and Addiction
While drug use often begins as a way to seek recreation, the addictive properties of drugs quickly turn a perceived outlet for fun into a constant need to remain high. This compulsion is uncontrollable and may interfere with a person’s everyday life.
While substance abuse comes with a great many side effects, ranging from mild physical side effects like nausea and dehydration to work-related consequences such as reduced productivity, one of the greatest risks of substance abuse is dependence.
What might begin as the occasional bump of cocaine or hit on the bong can quickly spiral into dependence and eventually full-blown addiction. Once addiction takes hold, comprehensive treatment is needed.
Even when the effects of drugs are damaging to a person’s body and relationships with friends, family members and coworkers, the constant need for a substance often overcomes any rational thinking.
Per NIDA, addiction is a persisting disease that requires ongoing management. Individuals are never “cured” of addictions; instead, they learn how to manage their disease so they can lead healthy, balanced lives.
Most people who struggle with drug addiction face the issue of tolerance buildup. After continuous use, the body becomes less and less stimulated by the drug. This may cause a person to begin using higher dosages to obtain the same high. Although the person may not feel as high, the damaging properties of the drug cause the same amount of harm. If the body receives a level of drugs that it cannot tolerate, this leads to an overdose. While some overdoses occur after continuous use, they can also happen after one single use of a drug.
Signs and symptoms of a drug overdose include:
- Losing consciousness.
- Fever or sweating.
- Breathing problems.
- Abnormal pulse.
- Change in skin color.
If any of these signs are present, or if you believe a person might be having an overdose, seek life-saving medical attention immediately.
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