Substance Abuse: America’s Problem

Substance abuse is becoming an epidemic in our society. Adolescents and teens are starting to experiment with tobacco, alcohol and drugs at a younger age than they previously had. By the 8th grade, over half of all students in the United States have consumed an alcoholic beverage, while over 40 percent have smoked a cigarette, and 20 percent have tried marijuana at least once.

Not only are Americans beginning to abuse drugs and alcohol an an earlier age, but the abuse is lasting many in our society through the remainder of their adult lives. For example, substance abuse has reached outrageously high levels in the senior citizen community.

Surveys indicate that six to eleven percent of elderly patients admitted to hospitals exhibit symptoms of alcoholism, as do 20 percent of elderly patients in psychiatric wards and 14 percent of elderly patients in emergency rooms. In addition, several studies are indicating that alcohol abuse in nursing homes is reaching an astounding 49 percent.

Substance Abuse and its Economic Impact

Many people in America falsely think that substance abuse doesn’t impact their everyday lives as long as they abstain themselves. They could not be more wrong. For starters, substance abuse costs the American economy over $414 billion every year with alcohol abuse alone counting for almost $166 billion of it.

There are over half a million trips to emergency rooms every year due to overdoses and other substance abuse related complications that Americans pay for. In addition, healthcare costs for people addicted to drugs and alcohol are almost twice as high as they are for those who abstain.

Another place the economic impact of substance abuse can be felt is in our nation’s jails and prisons. The United States has the highest prison population rate in the world with 756 people per 100,00 citizens incarcerated. Drug offenders count for over half of the prison population in this country, a population that has increased over 40 percent in the last ten years. American tax payers spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year to keep non-violent drug offenders in jails.

Substance Abuse Doesn't Only Hurt the Abuser

The effects of substance abuse can be seen long before an individual even tries drugs or alcohol for the first time. Children who grow up in a home with substance abuse often pay the heaviest prices from the earliest age.

For example, a child who’s parents abuse drugs and alcohol will have an alarmingly higher rate of emotional difficulties, troubles in school and overall problems with delinquency than his/her classmate who comes from a home without substance abuse. Not surprisingly, the child who grew up in the household with substance abuse has a significantly increased risk of one day abusing substances themselves.

Domestic violence is another blight on our society that often finds itself hand in hand with substance abuse. Over 75 percent of the victims of domestic violence in this country report that their attacker was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the assault.

Substance Abuse Treatment

Substance abuse in the United States literally affects every single one of us. There are quality treatment programs for substance abuse and alcoholism that can help you or your loved ones recover from addiction and enjoy a happier and healthier life.

Regardless of your socioeconomic status or your individual circumstances, there is a program for everyone that needs help. Many programs accept private insurance, and some accept Medicare, Medicaid, and other state funds. For those that have legal charges pending, an alternative sentencing program involving addiction treatment can be a good option, and there are treatment programs out there that have experience working with the courts.

If you or a loved one is suffering from the effects of drug or alcohol abuse, Destination Hope: The Women's Program wants to help. Our programs are accredited by the Joint Commission and are designed specifically for women suffering from addiction or mental health issues. We urge you to give us a call at 1-866-808-7111 any time so we can discuss treatment options and breaking the toxic cycle of substance abuse.

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