Statistics on drug and alcohol addiction obtained from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicate that in 2017 19.7 million Americans over the age of 12 struggled with substance use disorder. It is important that you understand why the survey doesn’t state that these people are dealing with Substance abuse issues. Substance abuse is a clinical designation given to a client by a mental health or substance abuse professional. The survey information indicates use of illicit substances and/or inappropriate use of legal substances like alcohol. These surveys do not indicate whether individuals have been diagnosed with substance abuse disorders by a clinician.
It is further indicated that 74% of adults struggling with a substance use disorder are struggling with both alcohol use and at least one other substance. According to the survey 5, 071,000 individuals over the age of 12 used cocaine in 2017. 882,000 individuals living in the US over the age of 12 used Crack in 2017. 948,000 individuals over the age of 12 used heroin in 2017. 1,391,000 used methamphetamines, 11,517,000 indicated that they had misused pain killers, and 11,824,000 indicated that they had misused opioids in 2017.
According to a national survey dating from 2015 26.9% of adult US citizens had engaged in binge drinking in the month prior to taking the survey. Binge drinking was defined as a woman having consumed more than four drinks in one two-hour period or a man drinking more than five drinks in a two-hour period. It was further determined that 7% of adults had been drinking heavily in the month prior to taking the survey. In this instance heavy drinking was identified as having over five binge drinking episodes in a month. So, individuals admitting to heavy drinking (Remember this is 7% of the US population over the age of 18) had had more than four drinks if female or five drinks if male in a two-hour period for five or more days in a thirty-day period.
These numbers are important not simply in signifying the level of problem those of us in the United States are facing, but it provides us with a basis to discuss the impact that substance use is having on our families, businesses, and communities.
There are many issues related with the use of alcohol and drugs within the US. The implications of substance use are often discussed in terms of money. Looking at the financial cost of substance use gives us an idea of why substance use is looked at as a national issue. The monetary cost of substance use is often looked at in two ways. First the medical cost of substance use is often identified. This number represents the overall cost of medical expenses related to treating people dealing with substance related illness, medical emergencies, medical emergencies related to substance induced accidents, etc.Substance abuse has been identified as one of the single costliest health care issues facing the United States today. It has been indicated that the health care cost related to alcohol abuse in the US was $27 Billion in 2010. The healthcare costs for illicit drugs was $11 Billion that same year.
The other way we see the cost of substance use discussed in by looking at the overall cost. When we look at the overall costs related to substance use, we are looking at health care costs, the cost of crimes related to substance use, and the loss of work production related to substance use. When we look at the overall cost of alcohol abuse in 2010 the number goes up to $249 Billion. The overall cost of illicit substance abuse in that same year is $193 Billion Dollars. So, the overall cost of alcohol and illicit drug use for the United States was $442 Billion for the year 2010.
Clearly, we are concerned with more than financial costs here. Indeed, the truly important costs of substance abuse is felt within our homes and communities. The most significant costs can’t be quantified by dollar bills. When we think of the effects that substance abuse has on our families and communities it far out ways the billions of dollars we have considered here to for.
Research indicates that the way our families are impacted depends largely upon what type of family we are talking about. There is likely to be a significant difference in how having a parent in a single parent household addicted to alcohol or drugs will impact a family than if the parent is one partner in a dual parent household. However, regardless of the make up of the family, substance abuse has negative impacts on all families it touches.
Whenever a parent struggles with substance abuse, he or she is likely to behave inconsistently. This causes confusion within the home. Children raised in these homes may grow up with poor boundaries as they have a parent that is sometimes very strict and at other times very lenient. Households where there is substance abuse tend to have difficulty with anger issues. These families also exhibit higher levels of stress than households where neither parent is abusing substances. Heightened levels of stress can play out in many ways. Unfortunately, none of these is positive. Increased stress levels are associated with increased levels of both physical and mental health problems. Members offamilies struggling with substance use also express higher levels of hopelessness. Increased levels of hopelessness are associated with increased risks of self-harm and suicide. Children living in homes with a parent who abuses alcohol or drugs is more likely to experience inappropriate sexual behavior and be a victim of child abuse. These children are also more likely to have their health care neglected and to find themselves socially isolated.
All of these issues are concerning. Aside from the environments in which children of individuals struggling with substance abuse issues live, there are other more visible impacts that substance abuse has on families. Families where one or both parents struggle with substance abuse are more likely to experience poverty and homelessness. These families are also more likely to have some involvement with the criminal justice system. Living in a household where substances are abused also increases the levels of shame, embarrassment, and stigma that these families experience.
Substance use issues have both intimate and far reaching consequences for our society. Individuals dealing with substance use issues are more likely to live in poor health, make poor decisions, live in poor living conditions, and are at risk for job loss and incarceration. Families dealing with substance use issues are more likely to experience domestic violence, child abuse, underage pregnancy, medical emergencies, loss of life in accidents, and involvement in violent crimes.
Business with employees who abuse substances are more likely to suffer significantly due to increased instances of absenteeism, loss in productivity, increased use of medical and health insurance benefits (these include short-term and long-term disability as well as sick days and death benefits), and theft within the workplace. Employees in positions requiring heightened levels of decision making and attention to details, have the greatest likelihood of causing significant issues if they perform their jobs while under the influence of mind-altering substances. Individuals working in the areas of air traffic control, bus driving, and train conduction can have huge impactson public safety. As we have seen historically, many train crashes, air plane crisis, and boating incidents are related to employees working under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Individuals working in the medical field, transportation, and emergency services have a less dramatic impact due to the number of individuals impacted by each of their decisions, but these individuals can still make decisions under the influence of substances that have life and death significance for those around them. An emergency room doctor working under the influence of mind-altering substances can easily make enough decisions in one day of work to negatively impact dozens of individuals, their families, and their communities.
So, one of the most distressing issues we find when discussing substance use issues is that the implications of substance use goes far beyond the individual making the decision to use. Communities where there are substance use issues are more likely to struggle with increased violent crime rates, increased homicide rates, increased accidental injuries and vehicular homicide rates, increased suicide rates, and increased rates of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and AIDS. These increased negative occurrences in a community can place a strain on community resources and further reduce the life chances of individuals living within these communities.
Many people struggling with substance use issues fell alone in their struggle, and many communities increase this perception through the stigma they place on individuals within their communities that struggle with these issues. However, research makes it imminently clear that substance use is not an individual issue. This is a community problem and demands a community solution. To make the issue of substance use increasingly complex, research shows that as many as 95% of individuals dealing with a substance use problem are unaware that they have a problem.
It is our intention to offer information about resources and options available to those in our community who are struggling with any aspect of substance use and/or recovery. We seek to provide a space for those struggling in isolation. It is our intention to be a caring voice in dark times and a connection to others. We hope to be able to offer a space for connection between those struggling with substance use issues and those who can provide support in whatever fashion it may take. So, please join with us in building this community and making a difference in the lives of those seeking to improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the lives of their community.