A Disturbing Perspective: The Addiction Epidemic

By Sam Knight, Director of Community Engagement at Detox Local

Throughout the country, average citizens and government figures alike are taking notice of the ever-growing opioid epidemic. After the New York Times published a study several months ago stating that overdose deaths rose nearly 20 percent from 2015 to 2016, many people are beginning to finally take action. Several states have even opened lawsuits against major drug manufacturers for fraudulent or misleading marketing tactics.

Many of us are aware of the opioid crisis, but how much does it really cost for society? A new interactive addiction statistics counter, developed by Detox Local, crunches the disturbing numbers in real time.

A Closer Look

Opioid epidemic graphicHow bad is it? Well, for instance, in the amount of time it took to read the first paragraph of this article, more than 400 new opioid prescriptions were written, $80,000 was spent fighting the war on drugs and $95,000 was spent treating addiction. It’s sometimes hard to digest large numbers for a given year or decade, but when the addiction statistics are broken down second-by-second, the problem seems much worse than previously expected.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 100 people die every day from a drug overdose. Since 2015, over 55 million people have needed treatment for a substance use disorder, which is nearly 60,000 people every day. Unfortunately, of those 60,000 thousand people, only 6,000 actually get the help they need. That means roughly 10 percent of those who need help get any sort of treatment, and that treatment all too often isn’t even adequate.

These are numbers that need to change but can only change from the grassroots level. Many state governors have signed executive orders declaring a public health emergency due to an overwhelming increase in civic engagement and demand for action, but it still isn’t enough. President Donald Trump has also declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, though the details of what that means in practice are still coming into focus. Average Americans need to hold our elected officials accountable if we want change. Addiction does not discriminate. People of all ages and backgrounds are being targeted by this powerful disease and very few are being offered a helping hand.

It’s Not Just Opiates

A crisis that is getting less media attention is the growing alcohol problem in the United States. Addiction statistics, provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, show that more than 15 million people every year suffer from alcohol use disorder, and the number is growing rapidly. They claim that the growing alcohol problem is mostly attributed to a social shift in the acceptance of binge drinking. Roughly 27 percent of American adults say they have engaged in binge drinking at least once in the past month. Many are unaware that binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks over the course of two hours for men or four or more drinks for women. Proper education is becoming increasingly vital to stop this trend.

Rehab, NOT Punishment

Americans should be calling their senators and filling town halls demanding change with these disturbing addiction statistics in hand. More tax dollars need to be allocated to treatment, prevention and education. Fortunately, with a few adjustments, many tax dollars can be redirected opposed to hiking up tax rates. Unfortunately, under current proposed tax plans by the president, it is unlikely that many low-income Americans will be able to afford the help they need.

What is especially startling is the way government currently views addiction. Society has had a long history of punishing those who suffer from addiction. In fact, 20 percent of people who need help are instead being arrested and put in jail. Jail does not treat addiction, and it costs taxpayers a lot of money. Simply redirecting tax money toward rehabilitation instead of incarceration would significantly increase the amount of people getting the help they need and would ultimately save money and lives by preventing future arrests and overdoses. To implement changes like these, it will take everyone time, money and energy. Fortunately, these sacrifices will pale in comparison to the cost of ignoring or punishing addiction.


Sources:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2016/americas-addiction-to-opioids-heroin-prescription-drug-abuse

https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_2716/ShortReport-2716.html

https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/overdose.html

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

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