Statistics on Drug Abuse Reveal Growing Epidemic… and Possible Solutions
Chances are great that opening the paper or tuning into the local news, in any region of America, will result in hearing about the drug epidemic currently ravaging the nation. News of the crisis, particularly about opiates, seems to be everywhere, and for good reason. Opiate addiction and overdoses have touched every corner of the nation, turning bustling towns into crisis hotspots, and loved ones into shells of their former selves. What the most recent statistics on drug abuse reveal is that the epidemic is only growing, showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. But there’s a silver lining- in some states, statistics on drug abuse are being used to fight back.
Statistics on Drug Abuse: Recent Trends
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescriptions for opiate medications quadrupled from 1999 to 2015- and so did prescription opiate overdoses (CDC.) Opiates are undoubtedly fueling the addiction and overdose crisis in the United States. This includes prescription drugs, like Vicodin and Percocet, as well as illegal substances like heroin. The most recent statistics on drug abuse show some disturbing trends. In fact:
- From 2016 to 2017, drug overdoses increased by over 14% for the entire United States (CDC)
- Opioids (both prescription and illegal) resulted in 42,000 fatal overdoses in 2016 (CDC)
- In 2016, opioids caused more deaths than gun violence, breast cancer, or car accidents (National Center for Health Statistics)
- Today, overdose is the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50 (New York Times.)
These facts and figures only present one small snapshot of the whole picture. But what they ultimately point to is the fact that drug addiction is overwhelming people across the United States, leaving tragedy behind. Statistics on drug abuse appear at first to be numbers, but the reality is that each statistic is an individual human being who fell victim to the horror of addiction.
Fighting the Epidemic
Looking at statistics on drug abuse in the United States can feel depressing and even hopeless. At first glance, it may seem an insurmountable challenge. Thousands of people have been impacted by the crisis- where do we begin combating it?
While it may appear and impossible task, there are organizations around the nation committed to stemming the opiate epidemic and slowing the wave of overdose deaths. In fact, some organizations have begun to use statistics on drug abuse to actually combat the effects of drug abuse! According to a publication by the CDC, federal and state organizations have begun using statistics on drug abuse to track overdose trends in order to better respond to crises and reduce the number if opiate-related fatalities. For example, some states have begun mapping overdoses by charting where emergency response teams (such as police and paramedics) used Narcan, an opiate overdose reversal drug. Through analyzing these statistics, the government is able to better allocate resources where they are needed most, potentially reducing the number of opioid deaths in particularly hard-hit areas.
Statistics on drug abuse have been used in other ways to prevent some of the effects of addiction. For example, pharmacies used a monitoring database to track opiate prescriptions to prevent patients from accessing more opiates than medically necessary. The federal government has also begun tracking prescription trends to identify “pill mills” and prevent unethical doctors from overprescribing opiates for profit.
While they may look stark on paper, statistics on drug abuse can not only identify a problem, they can help combat it.
Addressing Drug Abuse
While opiates have been the dominant substance fueling the overdose crisis, drug abuse in any form can be harmful, oftentimes leading to addiction and even death. That’s why it’s essential to confront and address drug abuse, no matter the substance, as early as possible. Many teens start out experimenting with household medications or chemicals and develop full-blown addictions before their parents or guardians are aware. In fact, statistics on drug abuse in teenagers indicate that most start out with easily accessible drugs found in the home (University of Michigan Survey.)
This is one of the many reasons that being aware of the problem and recognizing the signs is so important. In many cases, early intervention can save lives. If you or a loved one is suffering from drug abuse or addiction, seeking help as early as possible can make the difference between fatality and recovery.