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Statistics for Substance Abuse Among Adults Show Up and Down Trends

September 10th, 2012

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) tracks nationwide trends in substance abuse among teens and adults. The NIDA’s sources are surveys that are all scientifically conducted by several independent organizations, including Monitoring the Future (MTF) and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

Statistics for Substance Abuse Among Adults Show Up and Down TrendsAccording to surveys published between 2009 and 2011, trends in drug abuse in the United States are up or down, depending on the substance in question. For example, a 2009 NSDUH survey found that about 30.2 million people had driven a car under the influence of alcohol in the previous year. That’s about 12% of the population. Despite nearly 20 years of intensive public education, we still have a lot of work to do in this area.

Tracking drug abuse among teenagers is easier than tracking the same trends among adults. Unlike alcohol use, which can be tracked by public sales figures, illicit drugs are almost always hidden underground. One trick is to track emergency room admissions for drug-related health problems and drug rehab admissions.

Nearly 2 Million Americans Seek Treatment for Substance Abuse Every year

According to the Treatment Episode Date Set (TEDS), a network that tracks rehab admissions across America, 1.8 million people entered rehab in 2007. A 2008 NSDUH survey found that marijuana is the most abused drug after alcohol, used at least once per month by about 15 million Americans. Of those marijuana users, only about 250,000 were admitted to rehab that year. As high as these numbers are, they represent a steep drop from 25 to 30 million pot smokers in the late 1970s.

Cocaine use has been steadily declining since the 1990s, both for powder cocaine and crack cocaine. Because crack is cheaper to obtain and usually sold illicitly in poor communities, more people abuse crack than powder cocaine, and rehab admission figures show this fact. In 2007, about 67,000 adults sought treatment for powder cocaine addiction while 168,000 sought treatment for crack addiction.

Some of the most disturbing statistics regarding drug abuse revolve around heroin, notorious for its highly addictive nature. The peak year for people seeking heroin addiction treatment was 2002, when more than 286,000 people entered rehab for that drug. In 2007, the number was more than 246,000. While these numbers fluctuate slightly, the fact remains that every year in America, about 250,000 people enter rehab for heroin addiction.

But by far the fasting growing numbers involve prescription drugs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently called America’s prescription drug problem an epidemic. People who abuse prescription drugs often abuse other drugs and alcohol simultaneously. Overall, about 5,000 emergency room visits per day across America are caused by drug abuse.

Substance Abuse Facts Are Stark but Getting Better

How can we explain these numbers? On one hand, drug abuse is down from the peak years of the 1970s and 1980s, when about 25% of all adults used or abused illicit drugs. The rehab numbers in many ways reflect the nature of the abused drugs. Marijuana, although linked to abuse of other drugs, is not as physically addictive and debilitating as heroin or cocaine, so while it may be the most widely abused drug, fewer regular users are compelled to seek treatment. Cocaine and heroin, on the other hand, are physically addictive and highly debilitating to the user’s overall health, so more of those people tend to seek treatment in rehab.

Public education seems to be slowly reversing the trends begun in the 1970s, but the rise in prescription drug abuse is certainly alarming and goes against the general trend of fewer people abusing drugs. We still have much work to do before drug abuse is eradicated from our society.

Contact us today before it’s too late.Life-Saving Treatment for Substance Abuse Is One Call Away

We can help you find help for drug abuse and dependency. No matter what drug or drugs are destroying your life, our professional counselors will connect you to a variety of drug treatment centers. Contact us today before it’s too late.

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