The image of a drug addict for many can be far from the reality. Maybe the term “addict” leaves the image of a homeless person on the side of the street, but it may be surprising to learn that addicts are not just hanging on street corners; they may live right next door or even right in your very own household. Many communities work towards ending the reign that modern drug abuse and addiction have had for a long history in the United States.
A Different Pattern of Behavior
Modern drug abuse and addiction are much more of an undercurrent in today’s society. Granted, there are still inner city urban blight areas plagued with crack and heroin crash pads, but these are not the addicts that make today’s statistics. They represent a very small percentage of the total addiction in the US. Instead, today’s drug abusers work right next to other people all day long at work, they share schools and community centers with others, they visit parks and shop at stores the rest of the neighborhood shops at, and then they go home and take illicit drugs or take legal drugs illegally.
Part of the widespread presence of drug abuse has to do with the fact that multiple generations have been exposed to drugs at least at the high school level forward, and at the middle school level in many urban neighborhoods and regions. As a result, it should surprise anyone that as of 2010 at least 22.6 million people older than age 12 have within a given month been an illicit drug user to some extent, or almost 9 percent of the U.S. population, teenage or older.
Types of Modern Drug Abuse and Addiction
Drug abuse today ranges from everything such as prescription drug abuse to the use of marijuana to hardcore drug abuse in the form of heroin or crack. The wide range of drugs that can get caught in the above statistics then requires some gradation. All categories of abuse and addiction qualify as drug abuse; however, society today places a far greater stigma on addiction to prescription drugs or heroin than it does the occasional use of marijuana. The portfolio of abuse in modern times includes the following use by drug type:
- Marijuana, by 14.8 million people, or 6 percent
- Cocaine, an estimated 2.4 million users
- Hallucinogens, around 1 million users
- Methamphetamine, about 731,000 users
- Prescription drugs, approximately 7 million non-medical users
As a result, understanding the current extent of drug abuse requires looking at other statistics as well, primarily those that measure the effects of addiction versus just people using a drug.
The other aspect of modern drug abuse and addiction is a noticeable shift away from purely illicit drug use to addiction to prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Pain reliever drug abuse has seen a serious rise in cases and addiction, jumping up to 5.2 million abusers of non-medical prescription drug users, which totals to 7 million. Part of the issue has to do with the ease of obtaining prescription drugs as well. They don’t have the same barriers and obstacles as illicit drugs being bought from illegal dealers. Instead, prescription drugs are often obtained from the following:
- 55.7 percent got them free from a relative or friend
- 19.1 percent got them from just one doctor
- 3.9 percent got them from a stranger
- 1 percent bought them on the Internet
Modern Drug Abuse Impacts
The most dramatic figure of drug abuse and addiction has been and will continue to be the number of people who actually die from drug abuse. This figure, compared to 1980, has jumped 540 percent as of 2010. That is a huge increase in overdose or drug-related death situations.
The next big statistic area to examine involves the cost of addiction on everyone else. At home, six million children are being raised by at least one parent who has a current drug addiction. At the same time, in the workplace, employers are dealing with an annual loss of $122 billion to $276 billion in productivity, as well as health insurance costs charging up to $15 billion due to personal addiction problems. The figures depend on which source one relies on for information. Ironically, unlike the myth of drug abusers ending up on skid row as soon as they take a snort of cocaine, 3 out of 4 addicts are employed and go to work every day, albeit with less than stellar performance in the office.
Employers are stuck in a catch-22 position. If a drug abusing employee still performs a basic level of work, it is still far easier to tolerate and deal with the problem versus the cost of trying to replace a trained employee, even a minimum-performing one. Replacing a worker on average costs anywhere from a quarter to 200 percent the annual salary cost of the position with all the energy and time spent hiring, reviewing applications, filtering out candidates, interviewing, and training a new employee. It’s rare for a new hire to hit the ground running and perform exceptionally within a month.
Seek Treatment for Drug Abuse or Addiction
Modern drug abuse and addiction in the US has not gone away or disappeared. In some respects, it has become institutionalized. Extreme cases are still prosecuted, of course. However, common person use often ends up being treated now as a medical issue versus a criminal one. This shift in society is almost recognition of the presence of drugs in regular life, and that their abuse won’t go away anytime soon. Those suffering from a drug abuse or addiction problem are encouraged to seek professional addiction treatment.